Advanced Cardio Care Saves Teen's Life

PHOENIX, AZ - Dec. 20, 2018 - A Valley teen is thankful to be alive after surviving a massive heart attack caused by a rare heart condition. Anthony Rojas, 16, suffered a rare heart attack in 2016 and has spent the past two years recovering after three lifesaving procedures. Anthony has made an amazing recovery thanks to his medical teams at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“More than going back to school, I am glad I finally have a driver’s license,” says Anthony, who attends a high school in Glendale. 

Like most teenage boys, the Surprise resident enjoys playing video games with his friends. Unlike many his age, Anthony has Kawasaki disease, which is a rare condition that causes inflammation in the walls of some blood vessels in the body. It is most often diagnosed in children younger than age 6, and is the most common cause of heart disease in children.

Following the heart attack in 2016, Anthony's doctors at Phoenix Children's determined his heart was so damaged he needed a transplant. They worked quickly find an adult cardiologist. 

After hours of dedicated coordination, Anthony was transferred to  St. Joseph’s where he had a second lifesaving procedure performed by Hursh Naik, MD, medical director of the hospital’s Cath Lab and Structural Heart Program.

“Anthony’s situation was very unique,” says Dr. Naik. “We used a treatment commonly used to open arteries to the brain in order to open the arteries to his heart. Then we supported his extremely weak heart with a pump that can be placed without open heart surgery. This allowed his heart to recover and avoid a heart transplant.”

Once stabilized, Anthony was transferred back to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where his health turned perilous for the third time in 24 hours. A damaged vessel had burst in his back and he was bleeding internally. He was rushed in for another emergency and life-saving procedure at the children’s hospital. 
Following three days of nerve-wrecking recovery, the Rojas family received some good news. 

“It was the coolest thing,” recalls Anthony’s father, Carlos Rojas. “All three of his heart doctors, from St. Joseph’s and Phoenix Children’s, came to his room to tell us  the procedures had gone so well that Anthony had been removed from the transplant list.”
Rebecca says it was more than a relief, “It was one of the happiest moments in my life.” 

Dr. Naik says it is rewarding, “to see how well Anthony is doing, given all that he and his heart have been through. I hope he knows how amazing that is!"  

Anthony often travels with is mother around the country, attending and speaking at events in an effort to educate others about Kawasaki disease. “I know it’s rare, but I’ve met other kids who have Kawasaki disease too. One thing we all have in common is that we just take things day by day, and don’t take life for granted.”