Primary Children’s Hospital helps child with congenital heart disease through new program

May 10, 2024, 6:38 PM | Updated: 7:11 pm

EDITOR’S NOTE: In preparation for the KSL Primary Children’s Hospital Give a Thon on May 23rd, we’ll be featuring stories all month long about families who have spent time at the hospital. You can donate now at KSLKIDS.com.

SALT LAKE CITY — Ethan Delcid, a young man who was born with a congenital heart disease, was the first patient to go through their new cardiac fitness program.

Doctors say his progress gives hope to families who want to see their child thrive. At Primary Children’s Hospital, doctors are prescribing exercise to kids with congenital heart disease.

5-year-old Delcid is energetic, playful, and funny but he was born with a congenital heart defect. The right side of his heart wasn’t fully formed.

“He’s been in and out of the hospital his whole life,” Yannin Delcid, Ethan’s mom said.

Ethan in a hospital bed

Ethan in a hospital bed. (Courtesy: The Delcid Family)

A life-saving procedure kept his heart going until he turned four. He got sick and had to wear a ventricular assist device while he waited for a heart transplant.

Ethan would spend over a year in the hospital. His mom couldn’t bear to see him in pain.

“Just being able to put his head up was hard enough,” she said.

She worried Ethan would get restless being in a hospital bed all day. That all changed with the Primary Children’s cardiac team. They got him moving with exercise.

Dr. Dan Ziebell is a pediatric cardiologist with the University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

“There’s no pill that can do all the things that exercise can do,” Ziebell said.

A therapy dog visiting Ethan in the hospital.

A therapy dog visiting Ethan in the hospital. (Courtesy: The Delcid Family)

His team puts Ethan through a series of exercises – working his muscles, flexibility and mental skills.

“It looks a lot like play but when we get down to it, it’s working all of his muscle groups,” Jessica Pavlock, an exercise physiologist, said.

Ethan has managed to do it all while wearing the VAD.

“Over the course of many months, we were able to gradually build his aerobic capacity,” Ziebell said.

In November, Ethan got a heart transplant. Two weeks later, he was discharged.

Dr. Ziebell says the strength workouts made a big difference.

“He plays like a normal 5-year-old which considering all the things he’s been through. It’s remarkable,” he said.

Ethan and another child being visited by "Encanto" performers.

Ethan and another child being visited by “Encanto” performers. (Courtesy: The Delcid Family)

Yannin never imagined this day would come.

“This is a miracle. I’m so blessed to have him here with me.”

She’s grateful for the programs at Primary’s like music therapy and art therapy that allowed him to feel like a regular kid.

“They’re family to me.”

She is ready for Ethan to embrace what’s next.

“I want to show him the world. There’s more out there than just the hospital,” she said.

The cardiac fitness program has really taken off. They have a waiting list right now.

They plan on rolling out a telemedicine program so they can work with patients who have trouble getting to the hospital or who live far away.

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Primary Children’s Hospital helps child with congenital heart disease through new program