Gillian Tinsley, Petaluma
When 8-year-old Gillian sits in a quiet room, a soft ticking can be heard. It’s the sound of her artificial heart valve hard at work, keeping her heart beating strong and steady. For Gillian’s mom, Shannon, it’s also the sound of hope—and a reminder of the expert medical care her daughter received from an entire medical team at Sutter-affiliated California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC).
Two years ago, Gillian underwent open-heart surgery at CPMC to replace a faulty heart valve with an artificial metal valve. Her natural valve had been defective since birth, but the condition had gone undetected until she began having seizures as a toddler. To investigate the cause of her seizures, she was referred to California Pacific’s Pediatric Specialty Clinic, where she underwent a 24-hour monitored EEG. Doctors also performed an echocardiogram to evaluate a heart murmur that had been noted on Gillian’s past physical exams. Cardiologist Nikola Tede, M.D., became Gillian’s doctor, diagnosing multiple heart defects that required two surgeries to repair.
“It was all pretty scary,” remembers Shannon, “but the good news is that we had full trust and faith in Dr. Tede. She and her nurse practitioner Alice Pilram were on the phone with us whenever we had a question. We felt really cared for.” They even went the extra mile to provide a post-surgical treat for their young patient. When Gillian woke up from her valve replacement surgery, they asked what she wanted to drink, and she requested a cherry Slurpee™. One of the nurses promptly drove offsite to get her one—and delivered it to Gillian’s bedside.
Before Gillian’s valve replacement, she was exhausted all the time. Her parents often had to carry her when walking long distances because she did not have the stamina to keep up with her siblings. Today “she can run faster than I can,” her mother says. “She can ride her bike fast, and she giggles better than any child I’ve ever heard.”
She adds, “As Gillian falls asleep at night, you can hear that heart ticking. And it makes us realize that it’s just a miracle that her heart is functioning so beautifully now with that artificial valve.”
“I’m Shannon Tinsley, Gillian’s mom, and that’s my story.”