Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

Home is Where the Heart Is

For Dawn and Keith Campbell’s 10 children, home is where the heart is.

The Campbell family, whose children — 3 biological and 7 adopted — range in age from one and half to 24, recently welcomed Janan, the newest addition to their family, and he has required little extra care.

In November 2015, Dawn, a former special education teacher, and Keith, a former teacher-turned-pastor, learned about Janan, a three-and-a-half year-old boy who was living in an orphanage in southwest China. The adoption agency told the Campbells that Janan would need immediate medical attention for what appeared to be an abnormal heart condition. Dawn and Keith were unsure of the severity of Janan’s condition, this was not the first time the couple was faced with a congenital heart abnormality. Two of their children share a similar diagnosis, and have spent time at the UF Health Congenital Heart Center.

“When we first came to UF Health, we fell in love with Dr. Fricker and Connie,” Dawn, who lives two hours south of Orlando in Lake Placid said. “They went above and beyond in their care.”

After learning more about Janan’s ailment from the agency, Dawn reached out to Jay F. Fricker, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at the UF Health Congenital Heart Center, and Connie Nixon, R.N., a clinical coordinator at the UF Health Congenital Heart Center. The team reviewed Janan’s medical records available from the orphanage wtih the help of a Center fellow who interpreted Janan’s medical records from Chinese to English.

“We painted a realistic perspective of this child’s condition, but I knew this wouldn’t hold them back. They’re just amazing people,” Connie said.

Serious to Critical

After reviewing Janan’s file, the situation escalated from serious to critical. In addition to Janan’s heart abnormality, he suffered from a fractured femur, bleeding within the brain, and series of spastic episodes. Fricker analyzed Janan’s medical records, and brought in the medical expertise of Suman Ghosh, M.D., M.P.A., a pediatric neurologist at the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, to assess Janan’s neurologic state. As a result of Janan’s increasingly poor condition, the adoption process, which typically takes a year or longer, was expidited to a matter of months.

“There were two options. Janan would either pass away alone at the orphanage or would stand a chance of survival in the States,” Dawn said. “I travelled to China expecting the worst, but God kept opening doors.”

On March 4, Dawn departed with a close friend, Pam Freytess — affectionately known as Aunt Pam — for China, anxiously hoping to see her little one.

“When I got to the orphanage, Janan was purple and blue,” Dawn said.

Chinese officials would collect and finalize adoption paperwork for two weeks. Dawn would continue to communicate status updates with Fricker and Nixon through a 12-hour time difference.

“With the time change, I was so turned around that I had texted Connie at 3 a.m. U.S. time,” Dawn said. “I didn’t realize this at the time because Connie was ecstatic. It wasn’t until later that I found this out about waking her up! Here at UF Health, it’s the level of trust you have with the nurses and staff. They listen.”

After being cleared by Chinese authorities, Janan and Dawn returned home, traveling from China to New York and New York to Orlando. On March 16, Dawn drove directly from the airport to the UF Health Congenital Heart Center in Gainesville.

“I told Dawn, 'When you board that plane, let me know and I will notify our team,'” Nixon said. “I would tell her the game plan once she arrived in the Orlando airport.”

Janan's Diagnosis

Upon arrival to UF Health, physicians conducted a heart catheter procedure during which Janan was diagnosed with several defects, including transposition of the great arteries, a condition where the aorta and pulmonary artery are reversed; dextrocardia, a condition where the heart is reversed at birth; and a right aortic arch with atrial septal defect. In this rare heart defect, the aortic arch, a part of the main artery that assists with blood flow from the heart, is located on the right side instead of the left.

“Doctors at UF Health look at the whole child, not just one part,” Dawn said. “Your child is not another heart patient with a number.”

Since arriving at the Congenital Heart Center, Janan has made significant milestones, such as turning pages of a book, sitting up with support, popping bubbles, playing peek-a-boo, and riding a tricycle — with a little help.

“The physical therapists, occupational therapists, child life specialists, and speech therapists have all been great,” Dawn said. “From top to bottom, the care goes above and beyond.”

Physicians and nurses have also continued to encourage bonding between Dawn and Janan — a critical step in the adoption process.

“The team has been respectful of my bonding time with Janan, and at the same time, Connie has made sure that I’m eating and getting out of the room every now and then,” Dawn said.

A Family's Love

On Easter Sunday, Dawn’s family surprised her by visiting the UF Health Congenital Heart Center to meet Janan for the first time.

“It’s amazing what love has already done for this child,” Nixon said.

This April, Janan had his arteries repaired by Mark Bleiweis, M.D., the center director and chief of congenital cardiothoracic surgery at the UF Health Congenital Heart Center.

“I can’t wait to take him home. He’s going to love playing with his brothers and sisters,” Dawn said. “God has big plans.”

About the Author

Alisha Katz, APR's picture

Alisha Katz, APR

Marketing Manager

Alisha Katz joined the UF Health Communications team in 2015 and serves as the marketing manager for UF Health Surgical Services, UF Health Shands Transplant Center, UF Health Advanced Lung...Read More