Meet Kid Captain Carver Meiners
Carver was diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries while still in his mother’s womb.
After a prenatal ultrasound showed Carver Meiners had transposition of the great arteries – a rare condition in which the two main arteries leaving the heart are reversed – the Polk City, Iowa, newborn underwent corrective surgery at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital when he was just 6 days old.
“We went for the 20-week ultrasound and then the next week I got a phone call, saying they thought something was wrong with our baby's heart and that they thought he had transposition of the great arteries,” Carver’s mother, Allison, recalls. “We started in Des Moines and they offered up a couple locations that we could go to, one of them being Iowa City, and so we immediately just said, ‘Let's pursue that option.’"
She and Carver’s father, Matt, went to UI Stead Family Children's Hospital a few weeks later for their first appointment.
“I was really comfortable right away,” Matt remembers, adding that all of the couple’s questions were answered by the care team. “The doctor was very confident.”
“We knew we were at the right place,” Allison adds, describing the arterial switch surgery to correct the blood flow to his body and lungs. “They said that for his open heart surgery, they would be moving the coronary arteries. And the size of what they would be moving is the same size of the ball on the tip of a ball point pen.”
Carver underwent a heart catheterization within days of his birth to help prepare him for open heart surgery, and the couple received regular updates during his daylong arterial switch surgery.
Post-surgery, he was treated for chylothorax, a rare condition in which lymphatic fluid leaks into the space between the lung and chest wall, and supraventricular tachycardia, a fast heart rhythm arising from the upper chamber of the heart.
“Post-op was a journey, but at all times we had the greatest care and advocates for our son,” Allison recalls. “Everyone just made us feel at ease. We never felt like any question was a silly question. Everyone guided us along every step of the way, just to answer and reassure us.”
The care team trained the couple to give Carver his medications and use his feeding tube, and their son came home after 33 days in the hospital. The experience led to a career change for Matt, who became a paramedic.
“I watched the nurses and every one of them took pride in their job, and cared,” says Matt, who now works for a hospital and an ambulance service. “I just wanted a job like theirs.”
Carver, now 8, was asked in first grade to write things he likes about himself. The first thing he wrote was, “I’m the heart hero,” his mother recalls, along with, “I was born in Iowa City.”
Now in second grade, he enjoys flag football, baseball, and wrestling, and particularly loves reading.
In January, Carver organized a book drive for UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
“He just put a video out on social media, asking people to send him books,” Allison says. “Then we put together an Amazon wish list to some of his favorite authors. And he ended up getting 420 books.”
Carver continues to see pediatric cardiologists to monitor his heart.