Family Returns Home to Chicago after 4 Months in Intensive Care Following Infant’s Life-Saving Heart Surgery and Liver Transplant at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford

STANFORD, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Donning a Stanford onesie appropriately labeled with the words “Tough
Guy,” 11-month-old Owen Fochler is finally returning home to Chicago
after spending 4 months at Lucile
Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford
, where he underwent successful
surgery to repair two rare birth defects impacting both his heart and

This past May, the Fochler family traveled from their home in Palatine,
Illinois, 30 miles outside of Chicago, to Packard Children’s Hospital in
Palo Alto, California, so their son’s heart could be repaired in a
unique 12-hour operation known as unifocalization,
which was pioneered by pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Frank
Hanley, MD
, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at Packard Children’s
Hospital and Stanford
University School of Medicine
. In addition to the surgery for his
life-threatening heart defects, Owen also needed a liver transplant,
which he was able to receive after his heart repairs thanks to a very
special donor — his mom — and a large transplant surgical care team led
by Carlos
Esquivel, MD, PhD
, chief of pediatric abdominal transplantation at
Packard Children’s and Stanford University School of Medicine.

When Owen was born in November 2015, he appeared to be a healthy, happy
baby. Doctors noticed what they believed to be a slight heart murmur and
advised parents Devin and Kyle Fochler to bring him back in a month to
see if it had progressed. In the meantime, they were sent home to begin
their lives with baby Owen. But Owen’s mom had an unsettling feeling and
booked an appointment with a pediatrician.

Five days later, at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of
Chicago, Owen was diagnosed with a rare heart defect called tetralogy
of Fallot
(ToF), with pulmonary
(a missing heart valve between the pumping chamber of the
heart and the lungs) and major aortopulmonary collateral arteries (small
arteries that develop to supply blood to the lungs to compensate when
pulmonary circulation is underdeveloped). In addition, doctors
identified a buildup of bilirubin (yellow pigment) in Owen’s bloodstream
and diagnosed him with biliary
, a chronic, progressive liver condition in infants that
blocks the bile ducts, quickly causing damage and scarring of the liver
cells, and eventually leading to liver failure. It is not uncommon that
patients with congenital heart defects also experience liver
complications due to the organs’ associated function of ensuring blood
circulates healthfully throughout the body.

In the coming months, even after undergoing a Kasai portoenterostomy
procedure, which connects the bile drainage from the liver directly to
the intestinal tract, Owen’s liver progressively worsened. It was then
that the Fochler family learned of Dr. Frank Hanley, co-director of
Packard Children’s
Heart Center
, and the unifocalization
procedure that he invented and perfected to repair young hearts affected
by ToF. Hanley’s remarkable 98 percent success rate with the procedure,
which allows him to do in one marathon surgery what other surgeons would
stage over months or years, has helped him build the largest program
anywhere for this complex surgery. It’s a program that the Children’s
Hospital Association has noted for having exceptional outcomes,
completing more than 200 ToF surgeries in the last 6 years, many of
which have treated the most complex cases in the world.

In May, the Fochler family relocated to Palo Alto, and in early June,
Owen’s heart was successfully repaired in a 12-hour surgery performed by
Hanley and his team at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Following the
surgery, doctors continued to monitor Owen’s liver condition, knowing
that despite having his heart on the mend, a liver transplant would
eventually still be necessary to save his life.

With his newly repaired heart, Owen quickly grew bigger and stronger,
which made moving on to his liver transplant a viable option. With wait
times on the transplant donor list often lasting for months, Dr. Carlos
Esquivel suggested another possibility: a living-donor
, in which a family member or other matching candidate
would donate a portion of their liver. Owen’s mother, Devin, was tested
and learned she was a match. In September she donated part of her liver
to once again give new life to her son. “I didn’t think twice about it,”
Devin said. “I think anyone who has a child and is faced with this
option would jump at the chance to donate. I’m so grateful I was a match
and able to do it.”

The experienced liver
transplant team
at Packard Children’s, which Esquivel has led since
1995, is now one of the world’s largest programs. According to the Scientific
Registry of Transplant Recipients
, the team has performed more
pediatric liver transplants than any other institution in the western
United States. In fact, the team has performed more than 700 liver
transplants, including some in which patients also received another
organ, such as a heart, kidney, lung or intestines, and it has the
nation’s best 3-year liver graft and patient survival rates.

“To help treat Owen’s extreme case, we put together a remarkable team of
subspecialists in cardiovascular and transplant surgery,” said Esquivel,
the Arnold and Barbara Silverman Professor of Pediatric Transplantation
at Stanford’s School of Medicine.

“Our collaboration between multidisciplinary teams including
cardiovascular surgery and transplant surgery is critical for achieving
optimal outcomes in such highly complex cases like Owen’s,” added
Hanley, the Lawrence Crowley, MD, Endowed Professor of Child Health at
Stanford’s School of Medicine.

Now, the Fochler family is preparing to return home to Chicago. Owen
will be transported on a medical flight so he can remain on a
ventilator, and he will be taken immediately to Lurie Children’s, where
he will continue to recover in the ICU over the coming weeks.

“Owen has had a rocky road,” said Devin. “But he is in such a good place
now that it’s time to go home. Time to let him be a normal baby.”

He will celebrate his first birthday on Thanksgiving of this year, and
the family is hoping to be back home to enjoy it together. “Despite many
ups and downs, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for this year,”
Devin said. As Drs. Hanley and Esquivel gathered in Owen’s room in the
CVICU to bid farewell to the Fochler family, she added, “I never thought
we’d get to this point. Truly.”

About Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s
Hospital Stanford

Stanford Children’s Health, with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at
its core, is the Bay Area’s largest health care enterprise exclusively
dedicated to children and expectant mothers. As the top-ranked
children’s hospital in Northern California, and one of just 11
nationwide to be named on the 2016-17 U.S.
News & World Report Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll
Packard Children’s Hospital is a leader in world-class, nurturing care
and extraordinary outcomes in every pediatric and obstetric
specialty. Stanford Children’s Health offers care ranging from the
routine to rare, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. Together with Stanford
physicians, nurses, and staff, Stanford Children’s Health
can be accessed through partnerships, collaborations, outreach,
specialty clinics and primary care practices at more than 60 locations
across Northern California and 100 locations in the U.S. western region.
As a non-profit, Stanford Children’s Health is committed to supporting
the community – from caring for uninsured or underinsured kids, homeless
teens and pregnant moms, to training the next generation of doctors and
medical professionals. Celebrating the 25th
of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in 2016, Stanford
Children’s Health looks forward to the fall 2017 debut of its expanded
pediatric and obstetric hospital campus
. Discover more at
and on the Healthier,
Happy Lives blog
. Join Stanford Children’s Health on Facebook,
and YouTube.


Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford
Kate DeTrempe,
Dorman, 650-498-7056