Heart Care Close to Home

Elliott Matoso smiling and running along a sidewalk

A routine pregnancy ultrasound at 20 weeks led Rachel Naftzger to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital, where her baby was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

At 4 days old, Elliott had her first heart surgery. She had her second at 5 months, and another at age 4. Because of her congenital heart condition, which left part of her heart underdeveloped, Elliott will require regular monitoring throughout her life. Traveling from Walla Walla – where the family lives – to Spokane twice yearly would prove costly in time and travel for the Naftzgers.

With the help of a $50,000 grant from the Avista Foundation, the Providence Center for Congenital Heart Disease was able to acquire a new portable echocardiogram machine to better serve patients in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and northeastern Oregon.

Thanks to this mobile technology, the Naftzgers are able to get Elliott’s important tests done at a satellite clinic close to home.

“It will be very nice to not make that trip to Spokane,” Rachel Naftzger said.

Being far from Spokane is “a big deal for a lot of the population,” said Rick Jensen, M.D., pediatric echo director with the center, noting the impact on work and school schedules. “Providing services closer to home is our goal.” Providence’s congenital echo labs perform about 6,000 echocardiograms a year for fetuses, newborns, children and adults with suspected or known congenital heart disease.

The smaller device – about the size of two to three laptops stacked atop one another – contains all of the basic components of a full-size model. “Having these small units is really important for us to serve these families,” Dr. Jensen said. “Some of these kids have chronic diseases and need to be seen every three to six months for serial exams.”