Helping hands and healing hearts

Philanthropy is transforming heart care at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital

Congenital Heart Center

Karl and Patricia Betz helped lead the way in making the congenital heart center at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital (HDVCH) a reality. Most recently, the Betzes have made another transformational gift to sustain pediatric cardiology care in West Michigan. In gratitude for their loyal and steadfast support, HDVCH has renamed the center the Karl and Patricia Betz Congenital Heart Center. 

“Children are our future, and every child should have access to the best health care to be able to live life to the fullest,” Karl stated. “The accomplishments, creativity and care being given by this extraordinary team are exceptional and inspiring. Our hope is that each child and adult who comes here for care, and their loved ones, will know that they are not alone.” 

One of those children is Riley Bosma.

Living in the moment: Riley’s story

Riley underwent her first echocardiogram at 25 weeks gestation after a routine ultrasound revealed an enlarged aorta. The diagnosis? Critical aortic stenosis, a condition that occurs when the heart’s aortic valve narrows, causing enlargement of the aorta. While in the womb, Riley experienced several related bouts of supraventricular tachycardia, an abnormally fast heart rate. Doctors at the Betz Congenital Heart Center were able to stabilize her heart rate, giving her more time to grow and develop before she made her debut.

Allie and Jon Bosma welcomed their daughter at 36 weeks, weighing in at 5 pounds, 14 ounces. “They put her right on my chest. We got to enjoy time as a family of three,” said Allie. That time was brief, however, as the tachycardia returned 12 times on Riley’s first day of life.

Riley, Jon and Allie Bosma

That difficult first day led to an even more stressful second. Marcus Haw, MD, chief of cardiac surgery, performed open heart surgery to correct her aortic valve. Although the valve functioned better after this operation, it was too weak to tolerate a complete surgical correction. At 3 months old, she underwent a second open-heart surgery and will likely need additional surgery as she gets older. For now she remains under the watchful eye of her Betz Congenital Heart Center team. 

Allie and Jon look back on the last few months with gratitude. “This has challenged us to live in the moment,” Allie said. “It helps us to enjoy these moments at home together and just to love on her when we can.”

Philanthropy transforms heart care at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

Riley is just one of thousands of kids whose lives have been impacted by the world-class care at the Betz Congenital Heart Center. Since its beginnings, philanthropy has been the acorn that grew into the oak tree it is today. This most recent gift from the Betzes will transform clinical care as well as give Dr. Haw and Dr. Joseph Vettukattil, medical director of the Betz Congenital Heart Center, dedicated time for research in the areas of cardiology and pediatric heart surgery. It will also provide HDVCH with a second catheterization lab to support improved visualization of patients’ hearts through augmented technology.

Riley Bosma

Using a technique developed at the Betz Congenital Heart Center, scans such as MRI, CAT and ultrasound can be combined to create 3-D heart models, giving surgeons an exact representation of what they will encounter during surgery. These images are further used for creating 3-D printed models and visualizations of heart defects in 3-D. Improved views also result in shorter and less risky procedures, decreased anesthesia use and superior outcomes. The printed models help planning and training specialized procedures and implanting devices prior to placement in patients.

“Spectrum Health Foundation and philanthropy have both challenged and encouraged us to be creative and innovative,” says Dr. Haw. “This stimulus has attracted a profound depth of talent: a whole new team of cardiologists and surgeons who wish to be part of this journey. This progress has been made possible by the Betz family and others who have joined this initiative. Success attracts great candidates who, in turn, drive progress!” 

There is no doubt that philanthropy, partnered with the expertise of the Betz Congenital Heart Center team, has led to this program being ranked as one of the top 50 centers in the country for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report—four years in a row. “Our program provides world-class clinical care and offers our patients and families the latest technological innovations in the cardiac field,” said Hossain Marandi, MD, MBA, FACHE, president, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “It is exciting to envision how this momentum will carry us even further into the future.”

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Meet the program pioneers of the Karl and Patricia Betz Congenital Heart Center

Marcus Haw, MD

Karl Betz Chair of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery Research

British surgeon Dr. Marcus Haw (pictured right) spent 15 years as chief of congenital cardiovascular surgery at the University Hospital of Southampton— building one of the top-ranked programs in the United Kingdom—before moving to Grand Rapids in 2012 to join Dr. Neal Hillman in leading a major expansion of the pediatric cardiac surgery program at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

The cardiac services provided for adults at the Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center were also a factor in Dr. Haw’s decision to come to Grand Rapids. Dr. Haw performs surgery on adults as well as children, because congenital heart problems often require lifelong follow-up care.

Marcus Haw, MD

As co-director of the Karl and Patricia Betz Congenital Heart Center, Dr. Haw takes a collaborative approach to cardiology, bringing together a team of physicians from different specialties to evaluate treatment options and decide on a course of action. “You have to be very creative and very innovative, and you have to treat every single one differently from the last one,” said Dr. Haw. “I’ve seen big egos rubbing up against each other, and it’s very detrimental for patient care. When I talk to families, I like to think, ‘If I was the parent, and if this was my son, what would I want to know?’”

Dr. Haw and his wife, Helle, live in Grand Rapids, and their two adult sons are pursuing postgraduate studies.

Joseph Vettukattil, MD

Joseph Vettukattil, MD

Patricia Betz Chair of Pediatric Cardiology Research

Moving to Grand Rapids was something Joseph Vettukattil never would have considered until he was persuaded to do so by his former colleague at the University Hospital of Southampton, Dr. Marcus Haw. Dr. Vettukattil is an interventional cardiologist who joined Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in March 2013 as chief of pediatric cardiology. He is internationally renowned for his use of 3D echocardiography to guide diagnosis and treatment of heart defects in both children and adults. Dr. Vettukattil has also patented and made custom devices, with the support of the FDA, for compassionate use in patients with complex heart defects. These devices have significantly improved the quality of life in many of his patients who were otherwise considered not amenable to treatment.

Vettukattil, who grew up in India, completed his postgraduate residency in pediatrics at St. John’s Medical College in Bangalore, before completing advanced training in pediatric and adult congenital heart disease in England. “I never thought I would come to the U.S.,” he said.

“I always wanted to go back to help people in India. I thought if I come to the U.S., I may never go back. But here I am.”

Since joining Dr. Haw and the cardiology team at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Vettukattil is confident that West Michigan patients will no longer need to be sent elsewhere for treatment. “All children born with heart defects who can be treated will be treated here,” said Dr. Vettukattil, who notices a profound resiliency in children after heart surgery. When he sees a child smiling at him in the clinic after undergoing a heart repair, he says, “it is the best gift you can have.”

Dr. Vettukattil lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Jean. They have two sons: Nikhil, an artist in Oslo, Norway, and Tejas, who is engaged in postgraduate studies in neurophysiology in Maastricht, Netherlands.

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Congenital Heart Center