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Minimally Invasive Procedure Fixes Hole In Baby's Heart: 'She's Louder, More Lively'

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - A baby girl, born with Down Syndrome and several physical challenges, is thriving thanks to doctors at Children's Hospital Colorado. One-year-old Charlotte Ray Smith ("Charlie") of Loveland avoided open heart surgery and instead had a hole in her heart repaired through just a small incision.

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(credit: CBS)

CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh was there for Charlie's first checkup after the procedure.

In a dimly lit room, Matt Demecs, a pediatric echocardiographer, made a funny noise. Angela Smith, Charlie's mother, held up a toy with a flashing light. They were doing whatever they could to keep spunky little Charlie as still as possible.

The baby girl was having an echocardiogram, a photo session of her heart.

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(credit: Smith family)

But Charlie was kicking and squirming. That was actually a good sign that her tiny ticker was pumping without problems.

"She's bouncing back," said Dave Smith, Charlie's father.

Charlie was born on April 12, 2018. She has a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Just days after her birth, she had surgery to clear a duodenal atresia, a blockage in the first part of her small intestine.

Tests showed Charlie had other physical challenges.

"About half of the children with Down Syndrome have congenital heart disease," explained Dr. Dunbar Ivy, pediatric cardiologist at Children's Hospital Colorado.

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(credit: Smith family)

Charlie had a hole between the two collecting chambers of her heart.

"Too much blood goes from one side of her heart to the other, making her heart inefficient," said Dr. Gareth Morgan, pediatric interventional cardiologist at Children's.

That hole, known as a ventricular septal defect, made her tire easily and Charlie wasn't growing. The defect could be repaired, but the Smith's worried about the pain and recovery from open heart surgery.

"And just the fact that they were stopping the heart," said Dave.

Morgan offered the option of heart catheterization. It's a minimally invasive procedure. A tube or catheter is placed in an artery in the groin to the heart. Inside the catheter is a small mesh device that expands to cover the hole. It stays there permanently.

Charlie had the procedure on May 8, 2019, in the state-of-the-art Heart Catheterization Lab at Children's.

"Thankfully, it worked very well for her," said Morgan.

"Her ultrasound today looks fantastic," said Ivy. "High blood pressure in the lungs is going away."

And mom, Angela, sees a remarkable change in Charlie.

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Charlotte Smith (credit: CBS)

"She's louder and more lively and just fiery and sassy," Angela said.

Charlie doesn't tire so easily anymore. She's a handful and that makes her parents very happy.

Ivy said doctors at Children's Hospital Colorado perform approximately 900 heart catheterizations a year. He said that makes Children's one of the top five pediatric cath labs in the country.

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