One Fall Could Kill Toddler with Heart Defect

Twenty-month-old Adrian Raheal could die if he falls and hits his heart.

ByABC News
July 2, 2008, 4:11 PM

July 3, 2008 — -- For 20-month-old Adrian Raheal, a rare birth defect could turn an otherwise minor stumble into a fatal accident.

Because Adrian was born with ectopia cordis, a condition that causes his heart to protrude from his chest, any sudden impact to the heart could kill him, said his father, who told that he lives in constant fear his son will be injured.

"Look at it this way, every time I blink my eyes I have to worry if my son will fall within that blink," said Steve Raheal, Adrian's father. "I worry because when I blink it could be the last time I see my son move – it's very hard."

In addition to the birth defect, doctors identified another potentially fatal problem: Adrian has a hole in the cardiovascular wall between the two upper chambers of his heart, his doctor told

Today, almost two years after being told by doctors that his first-born son would not even survive childbirth, Raheal has come to Miami, Fla., from his home in Trinidad – where doctors were unable to help and even misdiagnosed the hole in Adrian's heart – in hope of a cure for his son.

Because Adrian is not a U.S. resident the public hospital cannot use taxpayers' money to cover his treatment. So Raheal, who came here with the help of the International Kids Fund, is hoping the group will help him raise $85,000 to pay for the extensive surgery Adrian needs to survive.

Without the operations, doctors told that the toddler's chance of survival would be severely compromised.

Dr. Eliot Rosenkranz, the cardiothoracic surgeon at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center who is treating Adrian, told that the combination of surgeries he plans to perform on the boy has never been done before.

Rosenkranz explained that he will use a catheterlike device to correct the hole in Adrian's heart first and after a few days of recovery will tackle constructing an enclosure for the organ.