Kansas City,
14:02 PM

U.S. News: Stories of Adult Survivors of Pediatric Heart Surgery

Congenital heart defects haven't limited them; in some cases, they've inspired them

Whitney Pierce
By Anna Medaris Miller

Whitney Pierce

Whitney Pierce was 11 years old when she decided to become a nurse. Born with a heart defect that makes one of her heart's chambers essentially useless, she'd had her first heart surgery at three days old and two more before age 6. In other words, she'd spent enough time at the hospital by then to know what her future workplace might be like. "It's really the nurses who get to know their patients," she realized when a nurse bent the rules to give her a tiny sip of water before a cardiac catheterization procedure.

Since then, Pierce completed college and nursing school, and bought a house and a dog. Now, at age 30, she works with heart patients at Children's Mercy Kansas City, where she received care as a child. She encourages parents to teach their children about their heart defects so they can take control of their care when they start seeing adult practitioners, and to not scare themselves by doing too much internet searching about their children's conditions. Meantime, she assures them that while the process is overwhelming and often frustrating now, it passes. "I spent months in the hospital [as a baby and toddler] and I don't remember any of that," Pierce tells them. "It doesn't last; it does get better."


Read the stories of other survivors via U.S. News.

Learn more about the Ward Family Heart Center at Children's Mercy.