Inspire 2023

Kapiolani: A Big Step for Tiny Hearts

“This center is a dream come true for me and it is truly a gamechanger for families and children across the state"
Dr. Andras Bratincsak, Kapiolani pediatric cardiologist

Kapiolani's new pediatric Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.

On Valentine’s Day 2022, Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children staff and patients truly wore their hearts on their sleeves. Kapiolani celebrated its new Pediatric Heart Center, the first and only center of its kind in Hawaii.

The Pediatric Heart Center encompasses an expanded team, including Kapiolani’s first full-time pediatric heart surgeon, as well as the state’s first pediatric cardiac catheterization laboratory, and a comprehensive and collaborative approach to treating heart conditions in children.

But for the 200 children born with a heart defect in Hawaii every year, the center simply means that many can receive lifesaving heart procedures without having to leave their families and home.

“This center is a dream come true for me and it is truly a gamechanger for families and children across the state,” said Dr. Andras Bratincsak, Kapiolani pediatric cardiologist.

The heart of a newborn is just about the size of a kukui nut. Procedures are intricate, delicate work. Kapiolani’s new Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory allows physicians to treat congenital defects, such as small holes in the heart, and take measurements or samples.

Group photo at Pediatric Heart Center Event.

From left: Ray Vara, HPH president & CEO; Chuck Mitsui; Emily Naula, Kapiolani senior development officer; and Gidget Ruscetta, Kapiolani chief operating officer, at a donor event celebrating the new Pediatric Heart Center.

That was the kind of care Chuck Mitsui needed for his son in 2013. The day Tui was born, the Mitsuis found out he had a heart defect. Kapiolani’s Critical Care Transport team had to rush the infant to a mainland pediatric specialty hospital. Dr. Bratincsak, Tui’s cardiologist, would care for him once they returned. It was the beginning of a pivotal friendship.

“Whenever we would meet, Chuck would always ask me, ‘Do you need help?’” Dr. Bratincsak said. “I told him the most important first step would be to create a pediatric cardiac catheterization lab at Kapiolani.”

It was a request the Mitsuis took to heart. The family and the Turner Farm Foundation were the first major donors to step forward and make the new surgical services a reality.

Since the center opened, more than 100 children have benefited — some as young as 3 months old. It is just the beginning for Hawaii families.

“This truly moves the needle,” Chuck said. “This center will be able to treat kids who might have otherwise passed away. This project will make a significant difference in families’ lives.

One of those families is the Colomas. Leila-Rose Coloma was born with Ebstein anomaly, a condition that causes problems with heart valves, and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which causes rapid heart rates. After several months in Kapiolani’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the 5-month-old and her family traveled to the mainland for open-heart surgery. Today, Leila-Rose is a 5-year-old with an adorable smile who loves art. She will need more surgeries to keep her healthy.

“She’s going to be utilizing Kapiolani’s catheterization lab soon, possibly next year,” said Kayley, Leila-Rose’s mom. “Their bodies are so tiny and their hearts are so tiny, they need this specialized equipment, these specialized doctors, to do these surgeries successfully. It’s exciting to have those services here at home.”