Fetal Heart Program
Patient Stories | Rowen and Tricuspid Atresia

Rowen's Big Life: A Fetal Heart Story

Duane and Dr. Eunice Blackmon, Rowen’s parents: "I guess we first found out about Rowen’s heart condition at our 20-week ultrasound. At that time, we knew something was wrong, we didn’t know exactly what was wrong.”

The Blackmons came to the Fetal Heart Program at Cincinnati Children’s, where they received the prenatal diagnosis of tricuspid atresia, which meant the right side of his heart was under-developed.

Eunice: “Did good during the delivery, and then at about two weeks of age, he started having some desats, and that’s when he had his first open-heart surgery.”

Rowen went on to have two more surgeries, one at 5 months, and his final surgery at 3 years old.

Duane: “As you can see, he turned out OK.”

David Morales, MD, Director, Congenital Heart Surgery: “Rowen is a perfect example of a child, who when you see running around the playground or taking karate, you wouldn’t imagine he had heart disease. Yet Rowen was born without one of the chambers of his heart, and a really important one, the pumping chamber of his heart. We were fortunate enough to do a series of operations, and you see the result.”

The Fetal Heart Program team at Cincinnati Children’s helps prepare families for every step of their medical journey – from surgeries through recovery and beyond.

Jim Cnota, MD, Director, Fetal Heart Program: “We get to watch these kids grow up, and be part of that process, and certainly some of the things we see are severe heart disease. A lot of the outcomes are great, and kids are happy. Families are doing well.”

Duane: “In a sense, it’s like they become your family, from a closeness standpoint, and everybody being involved, especially with the three procedures he had.”

The Fetal Heart Program is one of many programs within the Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute that work together to provide comprehensive care and support for our families.

James Tweddell, MD , Executive Co-Director, Heart Institute: “It is remarkable to see some of these individuals grow up. I can tell you stories of dozens of kids who had very large, challenging neo-natal operations and have gone on to be first in their class in college and even participate in competitive athletics.”

Eunice: “He loves basketball, he loves anything sports. He will shoot 100 basketballs in a row. He loves playing with his wrestling man. That’s one of his favorite things. He’s very involved in tumbling. His movement, his balance has gotten a lot better, and that’s one of the reasons why we put him in tumbling, to kind of get him a little bit better balance, so he does do physical therapy.”

Our Neurodevelopmental clinic offers families like Rowen’s occupational and physical therapy to help them thrive. With the exception of playing contact sports, Rowen doesn’t have any limits and can live a big, active life.

Allison Divanovic, MD, Associate Director, Fetal Hearts Program: “I like to tell families that, you know, we do what we do so kids can be kids.”

(Published February 2020)