Brock Beinhart seemed perfectly healthy at first. But soon after being born at an Iowa City hospital in October 1998, it became clear to doctors and nurses that something was wrong. Brock was having difficulty breathing, and his skin color was a dusky gray.
He was transferred to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where pediatric cardiologists diagnosed Brock with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect in which the left side of the heart-the side that pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body-is severely underdeveloped. Left untreated, the condition typically is fatal within the first days of life.
Brock's parents, Amy and Bryan Beinhart of Riverside, Iowa, faced a crucial decision. They could "let nature take its course." They could pursue a transplant and hope that a donor heart would become available in time. Or they could choose a relatively new, three phase open-heart surgery-the first of which is called the Norwood procedure-that could correct Brock's defect, but also included the risk of the Beinharts losing their boy.
Brock's parents chose surgery. "It was our best option... our only option, really," says Amy.
Ul Children's Hospital surgeons first performed an emergency cardiac catheterization to increase Brock's blood flow. At 2 weeks old, he underwent his first open-heart surgery a complicated 14-hour operation. It went well, but later that night, Brock had postoperative bleeding. Doctors had to "go back in," Bryan says, to stop the bleeding and force Brock's heart to pump.
It was "the longest and scariest day of our lives," Amy says, but Brock came through. He spent the next two months at the hospital.
At 6 months old, he returned for the phase-two surgery. This, too, was a success, but not without challenges-several days after the procedure, he developed ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding caused by a medication. Brock recovered, and over time he continued to make progress.
His final surgery came at age 4. It almost didn't happen at all. Brock had done well in the years leading up to the last procedure, but pre-surgery tests on his heart were not encouraging. A heart transplant seemed to be the only option left.
But Brock's medical team didn't give up. Consulting with experts around the country, his doctors developed a revised approach. It was a first-time-ever surgery, and it was a success.
"We put our faith in them, and God, and it worked out," Amy says.
Today, you wouldn't know that Brock ever had heart problems. Although he may get tired sooner than other kids, that doesn't stop him from playing baseball, going fishing, romping around the family farmstead with sister Murphy or helping take care of his younger brother, Brody.
Brock's parents say they'll always cherish Ul Children's Hospital and never forget what the medical team did for their son.
"It's where miracles become reality," Amy says. "They're part of your family forever."
"You gave us one of the best gifts we've ever had," adds Bryan.