Heart to Heart with Anna

Heart Warrior Doctor-Nurse Team: Treating Pediatric Cardiology Patients

May 12, 2020 Brandon Lane Phillips, M.D. and Chris Donald, RN Season 15 Episode 267
Heart to Heart with Anna
Heart Warrior Doctor-Nurse Team: Treating Pediatric Cardiology Patients
Chapters
Heart to Heart with Anna
Heart Warrior Doctor-Nurse Team: Treating Pediatric Cardiology Patients
May 12, 2020 Season 15 Episode 267
Brandon Lane Phillips, M.D. and Chris Donald, RN

Brandon Lane Phillips, M.D. and Chris Donald, RN are a unique doctor-nurse duo. Both of these professionals work with children born with heart defects -- just as both of them were born with heart defects themselves. In this episode of "Heart to Heart with Anna," this medical pair talks with Anna about how they met, why they work together, and why they choose to work with families like their own. Recorded during COVID-19, these medical professionals also talk about how viruses affect them and what they do to stay safe when faced with potential medical threats to the health of their patients and themselves.

Show Notes Transcript

Brandon Lane Phillips, M.D. and Chris Donald, RN are a unique doctor-nurse duo. Both of these professionals work with children born with heart defects -- just as both of them were born with heart defects themselves. In this episode of "Heart to Heart with Anna," this medical pair talks with Anna about how they met, why they work together, and why they choose to work with families like their own. Recorded during COVID-19, these medical professionals also talk about how viruses affect them and what they do to stay safe when faced with potential medical threats to the health of their patients and themselves.

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Chris Donald, RN.:   0:00
It's also good for the families because they can see, you know, my kid can be, Ah, heart doctor or a nurse. There's no you know what? You have heart disease. You can't do anything with your life.

Anna Jaworski:   0:17
Welcome to Heart to Heart with Anna, I am Anna Jaworski and the host of your program. I'm happy you're here with us today. I'm thrilled to interview a very special pair of friends, colleagues and so much more than that in today's episode, "Heart Warrior Doctor-Nurse Team Treating Pediatric Cardiology Patients." Today we have a pediatric cardiologist and a pediatric cardiology nurse team, which isn't necessarily unique for Heart to Heart with Anna, but what is unique is that both members of this team were born with heart defects themselves. In this episode, we will get to meet one adult heart warrior born with Tetralogy of Fallow and another one born with a single ventricle heart, specifically, Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome. Today we'll learn about these amazing heart warriors, how they became a dynamic duo and what advice they have for other hot warriors considering a job in medicine. With me today are Brandon Lane Phillips. He is an author, in fact, he is an award-winning off her and a pediatric cardiologist with Tetralogy of Fallot. Brandon Lane Phillips was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, to Jerry Phillips and Carol Wagner Phillips. Dr. Denton Cooley performed Brandon's first open heart surgery at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, Texas. In 1979. Brandon graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. From there, he moved on to attend Tulane University School of Medicine. He had his second open-heart surgery, performed by Dr. Francisco Puga at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in the summer between his first and second years of medical school, Brandon completed his general pediatrics residency at Texas Children's Hospital and his pediatric cardiology fellowship at Mayo Clinic. He was trained by the physicians who provided care for him during his two heart surgeries, and I'm very excited to announce that he is the first winner of Baby Hearts Press People's Choice Award for his book, "When I Wish Upon a Star." I also have Chris Donald joining us today. Chris Donald is a pediatric cardiology nurse with Hypoplasticplastic Right Heart Syndrome. She is currently at Ochsner's Children's specialty clinic in West Monroe, Louisiana, and has worked in a variety of settings with a pediatric cardiology focus. She earned her bachelor of science in nursing from Texas Tech University Health Science Center. In addition to her role as a nurse, Chris has also spoken about the patient perspective of living with adult congenital heart disease at the American College of Cardiology. In her spare time, Chris enjoys spending time with their husband, Brian, and her son, Harrison, and two daughters, Daisy and Zelda. Now I will tell you that her son is human and her two daughters are sweet little dogs. She also enjoys jogging, gardening, and cooking. So, let's get started. Welcome back to Heart to Heart with Anna, Doctor Phillips. My longtime loyal listeners may remember you from when you were on the program entitled "Interwoven Lives and Congenital Heart Defects."

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   3:31
Anna, thank you so much for having me on again. I'm super excited to be here today with one of my closest friends. This is going to be great.

Anna Jaworski:   3:38
I know, I'm so excited! When you told me about Chris, I just knew we had to do a program with the two of you. So this really, really is exciting for me.

Chris Donald, RN.:   3:48
Thank you so much for inviting us.

Anna Jaworski:   3:50
Well, Chris, this is going to be a lot of fun. Let's get started with you, Brandon. I mentioned in the intro that you were born with Tetralogy of Fallot and that you've had two surgeries. What do you think is important for people to know about your heart condition?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   4:06
Well, I think if you look at the medical textbook, you'll learn Tetralogy of Fallot has four different defects. Ventricular septal defect, or a hole in the bottom part of the heart, an overriding aorta, pulmonary stenosis, and right ventricular hypertrophy. You might even read that it's the most common cyanotic heart defect. I think one of the most unique things that I learned when I was in my fellowship, is that actually, they describe it as one single defect that leads to the other defects that they say make up the four defects of the heart. One of the things that, that also caused me to learn was the fact that every heart is unique and that there's a varying degree of severity in congenital heart disease, and that even though we call several things or several hearts Tetralogy of Fallot, there really can be quite a bit of difference between them. I think it's really one of the most unique things about congenital heart disease.

Anna Jaworski:   4:58
Yeah, I think you're right. I think that is one of the unique things because we'll learn the same thing when we talked to Chris about her heart defect, Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome does not mean the same thing for every single patient, and I've been learning that about Tetralogy of Fallot as well. Is there a genetic component to the Tetralogy of Fallot?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   5:18
There are some genetic syndromes of lead to congenital heart defects. I can't think of one specifically that leads to Tetralogy of Fallot, but diGeorge syndrome is associated with Tetralogy of Fallot, but it's also associated with Truncus Arteriosis and some other defects. By and large, with many congenital heart defects, there's not an underlying cause that we can identify, and I think that's always important to discuss with the families, because even a lot of my patients' families been that maybe it's something they did during pregnancy that caused the defect. But in a lot of cases, we really don't know what that cause is.

Anna Jaworski:   5:52
I'm so glad you said that because one of the things that frustrates me is when the doctors will say it's a fluke of nature. That's what was said to me when my sons heart defect was first diagnosed, and that doesn't feel right to me. I just don't like that expression, and I really think that there has to be some kind of cause, and I would like to know what it is so that we can stamp it out in the future. But calling it a fluke of nature just feels wrong to me, somehow. Does that make sense to you, Brandon?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   6:24
It does, I think, one of the things I remember from my very first day of medical school as they told us that 50% of fetuses are actually spontaneously aborted and many were actually pregnant and not even realized that they're pregnant. So there are so many things from congenital heart disease, to other anomalies that can cause the fetus to be aborted, that I really think it's unique that anyone is born normal, just because of the wide variety of things that can actually lead to our early demise in pregnancy.

Anna Jaworski:   6:53
Yeah, I had no idea that statistics were that dire. Thank you for that information Brandon. Nobody's ever given me that kind of information on the program before, that's really, really interesting. Well, now I get to meet Chris, so welcome to Heart to Heart with Anna. Chris.

Chris Donald, RN.:   7:09
Thank you. I'm really excited to be here today.

Anna Jaworski:   7:13
I'm excited for you to come on the program. I really enjoyed meeting you at the ACHA gala in 2019 in Houston.

Chris Donald, RN.:   7:21
It was a lot of fun. I was so excited to spend that time with you all.

Anna Jaworski:   7:25
Yeah, let's start by talking about Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, because I know that that is a term that is used for a variety of defects like we were just talking about with Dr. Phillips. Can you tell us specifically about your heart defects and what surgeries you've had?

Chris Donald, RN.:   7:41
I have Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, and with that comes tricuspid valve atresia and pulmonary valve atresia. So I'm missing my tricuspid and pulmonary valves, and my right ventricle didn't form.

Anna Jaworski:   7:57
Oh, wow. 

Chris Donald, RN.:   7:58
So I had my first heart surgery within 24 hours of birth. I was born at a hospital next to the Children's Hospital. I was very grateful of that, and I had my BT shunt within 24 hours of birth.

Anna Jaworski:   8:16
Wow. Now, did your mother know while she was pregnant that you had a heart defect?

Chris Donald, RN.:   8:21
She did not know. She didn't have an ultrasound done at that time. So it was a huge surprise to her.

Anna Jaworski:   8:30
Absolutely. What hospital did you have your first surgery at?

Chris Donald, RN.:   8:35
I had my first surgery done at Driscoll Children's Hospital, and that was actually the same hospital that I worked at in the NICU years later.

Anna Jaworski:   8:44
Oh, my goodness. That is so cool. So you're a Texan?

Chris Donald, RN.:   8:49
I am a Texan,

Anna Jaworski:   8:50
(laughter) Well, that's awesome to know. Because, as you know, I am a Texan too. Driscoll has a very good reputation in our state, even though it's way, way, way far south compared to where I am.

Chris Donald, RN.:   9:04
Yeah, and that's where Dr. Phillps and I met originally.

Anna Jaworski:   9:07
Really? You met a Driscoll?  

Chris Donald, RN.:   9:10
Yes.

Anna Jaworski:   9:11
Were you both working there?  

Anna Jaworski:   9:12
We were,  

Anna Jaworski:   9:14
Oh, my goodness.

Chris Donald, RN.:   9:14
and um, I was in the NICU, and he was a physician there.

Anna Jaworski:   9:18
Wow. Okay, so you had your first surgery there. Then you went back and worked there, and you met the doctor that you're working with now there. So that place has a lot of special importance to you, doesn't it? 

Chris Donald, RN.:   9:29
It does. It really does.

Anna Jaworski:   9:32
Now you had the Blalock-Taussig shunt there before you were even a day old. When did you have your next surgery? And I'm guessing it was a Fontan?

Chris Donald, RN.:   9:41
No, actually I had the bi-directional Glenn next and that was when I was probably about 18 months. And then I had a heart cath at Texas Children's. And then when I was four or five, I had to have the Fontan, and my parents drove me up to Mayo Clinic and I had my Fontan with Dr. Puga, which happens to be same surgeon who operated on Dr. Phillips.

Heart to Heart with Michael Promo:   10:10
"Texas Heart Institute were offering us a mechanical heart and he said, "No, Dad, I've had enough. Give it to someone who's worthy." "My father promised me a golden dress to twirl in. He held my hand and asked me where I wanted to go." "Whatever strife or conflict that we experienced in our long career together was always healed by humor." Heart to Heart with Michael... please join us every Thursday at noon Eastern as we talk with people from around the world who have experienced those most difficult moments.

Content Disclaimer:   10:40
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The opinions expressed in the podcast are not those of Hearts Unite the Globe, but of the Hosts and Guests and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to congenital heart disease or bereavement.

Questions and Comments:   11:01
You are listening to Heart to Heart with Anna. If you have a question or comment that you would like addressed on our show, please send an email to Anna Jaworski at Anna@HearttoHeartwithAnna.com. That's Anna@HearttoHeartwithAnna.com. Now back to Heart to Heart with Anna.

Anna Jaworski:   11:18
How did a Louisiana Boy end up a Driscoll Children's Hospital?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   11:23
Well, after my fellowship, I took a job in San Antonio, Texas, and one of the surgeons from Mayo Clinic that I had the opportunity to me when I was there, took a job at Driscoll Children's Hospital, and I was right up the road. He asked me to come join his team.

Anna Jaworski:   11:37
Okay, so that's really cool. So you've been to a number of places in Texas as well?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   11:42
I have. I did my residency in Houston at Texas Children's Hospital. I worked in San Antonio at the Methodist Children's Hospital there, and then I moved to Corpus Christi.

Anna Jaworski:   11:53
Oh, my goodness. So when did you first meet Chris?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   11:56
I was doing NICU rounds one day at the hospital in Corpus Christi and a nurse approached me to talk to a family that had a child with a new diagnosis of congenital heart disease. Chris didn't feel that the family was bonding with the baby as well as she would like, because they were afraid that they congenital heart disease was a death sentence. So she asked me to let the family know that children with congenital heart disease could survive and flourish, and she even gave herself is an example of that. She went through her whole history and told me that she was a congenital heart disease survivor, that she had had surgery at Mayo Clinic, and I just couldn't resist telling Chris my story as well. You know, when you meet someone new with congenital heart disease. It's like finding family and I was just floored by the fact that she and I both had the same surgeon. I thought that was so cool, from the start. So, of course, I was more than happy to talk to the family with her, and in fact, both of us kind of shared our story with the family that day and kind of gave the family a lot of hope. Well, we have a lot of programs that Driscoll where we would get involved with our patients. We had a heart camp, and we would do part walks. So I asked Chris if she wanted to come volunteer with those programs, and the staff in the clinic got to know Chris, and when we had an opening for a cardiology nurse, they called me and asked me if I would call Chris and ask her to come work with us. So that's how Chris and I initially started working together, and we worked together my last few years at Driscoll Children's Hospital. In fact, when I left Corpus to move to my current job in West Monroe, my last night in Corpus Christi, I had dinner with Chris and her husband, Brian. I moved from Texas... Chris seemed really sad that I was leaving. And about a year after I moved from Texas, her husband completed his pharmacy residency and was looking for a faculty position, and he interviewed here at the pharmacy school at ULM, University of Louisiana Monroe. So Chris and him stayed with me when they were looking for houses after he accepted the position. They found a house right up the road from me, Chris and I are actually neighbors, and by the time they actually made the move, the nurse that was working with me in clinic decided that she wanted to go to the NICU where there was more action. So I actually had an opening for a nurse, and Chris fell right into the position and we were back working together again.

Anna Jaworski:   14:14
Oh, my gosh, It's almost like everything was meant toe happen like that, isn't it?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   14:20
It is. So much my life, Anna, has just fallen into place just the way that it seems that was meant to be. And I get to go to work every day and get to work with one of my closest friends and someone who definitely understands the patients that we deal with. Not just their congenital heart defect, but all the emotional things that come along with having congenital heart disease. You know, I kind of jokingly say all the time that Chris and I may actually be the only nurse-physician team in the whole country where both of us for congenital heart disease survivors, and I think that's pretty cool.

Anna Jaworski:   14:48
I think it's really cool too, and I would love to know if there is somebody else out there that's like that. I am meeting more and more doctors and nurses who were born with heart defects Dr. Phillips. It's amazing to me.

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   15:04
Absolutely. I think a lot of people want to kind of go into what they know. And, you know, I certainly bonded with my pediatric cardiologist as a kid and just wanted to emulate him, and I would go to my appointments and he would call me his friend and I just felt so much love and care by him that I just decided that that's what I wanted to do. And by the time I was four years old, I knew that I want to get pediatric cardiologists like him.

Anna Jaworski:   15:25
I just love that story. I just absolutely love that. Chris, I know that you have a really unique story, too, because you actually started your relationship with Dr. Phillips, If I'm not mistaken, as his patient, can you talk to me about that?

Chris Donald, RN.:   15:41
I lived in South Texas near Driscoll, and then I went to Texas Tech, had a cardiologist in Lubbock, and then I came back to South Texas and I went to the same cardiologist I always had, and he had kind of gotten to the point where he didn't want to see all the adult patients, especially the pretty complex adult patients. And so he was transitioning them to some of the other cardiologists in the group who had an interest in adults. And so he asked Dr. Phillips to actually take me on as a patient, and I don't think at the time he knew that I was the patient that the other cardiologist had told him about. So I don't think he was expecting to see me in the appointment when I first showed up.  

Anna Jaworski:   16:33
Yeah,  

Chris Donald, RN.:   16:34
So he's always been Dr Phillips, and we've had Thanksgiving together. We've done Christmas here and there. We're right down the street so we see him outside of work a lot. He is still Dr Phillips no matter what

Anna Jaworski:   16:49
You can't call him by his first name. I totally understand it. I became a teacher and my first teaching job. I came back and taught at, actually. my rival high school, and when I saw fellow teachers who had been my teachers, I couldn't call them by the first name. Even when they told me to, I still had to call them Mrs. Wheeler or Mr. Night, because that's how we Southern girls are, isn't it?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   17:19
Anna, it's the same way with me. When I had my last procedure at Mayo Clinic, I went to my physician's home. They invited me to their home for breakfast the morning after she replaced my valve, and I was talking to her I said, "Dr. Cabalka," and her husband looks like, "you realize you're not in fellowship anymore, and her first name is Allison." I go, "she just put a valve in me. She is still Dr. Cabalka, and always will be."

Anna Jaworski:   17:42
(laughter) Good for you. Good for you. I think that that shows a certain amount of respect that maybe we don't have enough of that nowadays. I don't know. I'm an old fashioned girl. I think it's sweet, to be honest with you, I just think it's sweet Well, we all hear horror stories about how difficult it is to go through medical school. Can each of you tell me about your journey becoming a medical professional and how your heart defect played a role in your choice of profession, and Brandon, I'm going to start with you because I know, from the intro, that you had surgery while you were in school, so tell us about it.

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   18:20
So when I started medical school at Tulane, I was asked to go meet with the pediatric cardiologist. I thought someone had just read by admissions essay and knew that I had an interest in pediatric cardiologists because I was a patient, and I was gonna go find out how to become a pediatric cardiologist. That conversation led him to ask, "Did I have a pulmonary valve?" And I'm like, "I don't think so, but I don't really know for sure." "Well, can I do an echocardiogram?" And on the second day of med school, he told me that I needed to leave medical school to go have another open-heart surgery, and that's how I actually ended up at Mayo Clinic. I always had all my care at Texas, Children's Hospital, but he had recommended that I go to Mayo Clinic for my next surgery. And when I called my doctor in Houston, he just like Brandon "You know, medicine is gray, and two doctors can look at the same set of data and come to two different opinions. I'm more than happy to send your date of the Mayo Clinic," he goes, "In fact, I trained many of them up there, and I'm happy to see what they have to say," and the people at Mayo agreed that I need to have surgery. So that's how I ended up at Mayo Clinic for my surgery and ultimately for my fellowship in cardiology. But from the time I was a little kid, I always knew that I wanted to be a pediatric cardiologist. It was the only thing that I ever remember telling my family that I wanted to do. No one in my family had ever gone to college, much less med school. I just really loved my pediatric cardiologist, and he completely inspired me to decide that I wanted to pursue a field in this. Honestly, I can't imagine doing any other type of medicine and loving it as much as I do. pediatric cardiology.

Anna Jaworski:   19:52
That's just so awesome. I love that. Chris, What about you? What was your journey like to becoming a nurse?

Chris Donald, RN.:   20:00
I'm pretty similar. I kind of grew up always wanting to be a nurse. We lived on a farm and I have pictures of me in all of the shoe covers and the hair bonnets that the nurses would give me delivering kittens. So it's kind of one of those. (laughter) I know it's something I just always wanted to do. I grew up knowing I was going to be a nurse, and that was my goal, and that's what I did. It's kind of like what Dr Phillips said, I wouldn't want to do anything else, and so that's where I'm at.

Anna Jaworski:   20:35
Even though, but okay, so I understand wanting to become a nurse, but there are so many different areas in nursing. Isn't it hard to deal with people whose children,... because you do pediatric cardiology, right?

Chris Donald, RN.:   20:49
I do. I started off with the neonatal ICU.

Anna Jaworski:   20:54
Okay, but isn't it hard to deal with families who have the exact same heart defect that you do?

Chris Donald, RN.:   21:04
It really isn't. You know what they've been through. You know what it's like. You know, it's really one of those, you've been in their shoes. And I feel for the kid, because it's one of those, I know what it's like till live and grow through it and, you know, wanting to do everything. And, I don't know. And it's also good for the families because they can see, you know, my kid can be a heart doctor or a nurse. There's no, "You know what, you have heart disease. You can't do anything with your life."

Anna Jaworski:   21:39
Right, right. You know that there aren't the limitations on there that you might be afraid that there would be. But, I think it's admirable that you want to work with patients, like you, because I imagine that it could be really challenging at times when your patients aren't doing well. I mean, for me, that would be the time that I think it would be the hardest.

Chris Donald, RN.:   22:00
So that is the hardest part. I've always been the type that if one of our patients dies, I will go the funerals and make sure that the families that we've come to know and love get the support knowing that we cared enough to be there. And that is the hardest part about my job because it's one of those I'm alive and doing well, my family could be that family.

HUG Store Promo:   22:32
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Baby Blue Sound Collective Promo:   23:09
Home. Tonight. Forever by the Baby Blue Sound Collective, I think what I love so much about this CD is that some of the songs were inspired by the patients. Many listeners will understand many of the different songs and what they've been inspired by. Our new album will be available on iTunes, Amazon.com, Spotify. I love the fact that the proceeds from this CD are actually going to help those with congenital heart defects. Enjoy the music. Home. Tonight. Forever.

HUG Message:   23:49
Heart to Heart with Anna is a presentation of Hearts Unite the Globe and is part of the HUG Podcast Network. Hearts Unite the Globe is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing resources to the congenital heart defect community to uplift, empower, and enrich the lives of our community members. If you would like access to free resources pertaining to the CHD community, please visit our website at wwwcongenitalheartdefects.com for information about 

Anna Jaworski:   24:23
Chris, I understand you have a special story about a nurse who worked with you when you were a child at Driscoll. Can you share that story with us?

Chris Donald, RN.:   24:32
So kind of that is why I really want to be a nurse. Thinking back about it, is my mom had this picture of me when I was born, and it's me with all these stuffed animals and a nurse behind me, and her name was Tracy and my mom always told me about Tracy, the nurse that took care of me. And she took care of me over my first Christmas and hearing about Tracy, I knew I wanted to have that impact with others, and that's how I was going to become a nurse, so I could do that. And I was a patient at Driscoll, so at Driscoll, they knew my story, and I was asked to speak, Um, for the Driscoll,... I think it was like a hospital heroes dinner. And I talked about the nurse that inspired me to be a nurse, and her name was Tracy. Everybody told me that I needed to find this...  

Anna Jaworski:   25:33
Yes! Yes! I was just going t ask you, have you, found her?  

Chris Donald, RN.:   25:36
I did.  

Anna Jaworski:   25:39
Oh, my goodness.

Chris Donald, RN.:   25:40
And this is after I had left NICU and went to cardiology, and I went down to medical records, and, you know, I'm asking the poor lady and medical records, "I need you to find records. You know, go to the bowels of your medical record charts, and I need the name of a nurse who took care of me. And I think in the NICU 25 years ago and all I have is the first name of Tracy." And an hour later, I'm at my desk and I get a call, and she was so excited to let me know that she found her name. And I go down to medical records, she shows me the paper and it says, Tracey Grundy. Now what? What do I do with this? Well, it turns out the person in medical records used to be the receptionist for PICU, and it was at PICU that this nurse took care of me. And she says, "I know exactly who she is."  

Anna Jaworski:   26:50
Wow!

Chris Donald, RN.:   26:52
She is Tracy de Leon and her husband was the medical director of the neonatal ICU. And when I had first started at that unit, the neonatal ICU, I had asked if anybody had been there 25 years plus so I could see if I could find this nurse. I never even thought to show the picture of the nurse to the medical director.  

Anna Jaworski:   27:19
Oh, my goodness 

Chris Donald, RN.:   27:20
And I had worked in there for two years, and his wife was the one who took care of me.  

Anna Jaworski:   27:27
Oh, my gosh. That is such an amazing story. Wow,  

Chris Donald, RN.:   27:33
We met up. We had lunch. The next time I was asked to speak for the hospital heroes thing again, and I got to bring up Tracy and thank her in front of everybody, and it was just amazing.

Anna Jaworski:   27:47
That is lovely. That is a wonderful story. I bet she is so happy that you grew up to be the fine young woman you are and that you decided to become a nurse because of her influence, partly because of her influence. 

Chris Donald, RN.:   28:04
Yeah, she was very excited. She's actually, I think, she teaches nursing school at some point. So it's, it's really neat.

Anna Jaworski:   28:11
That is really neat. Well, it seems like more and more adults with congenital heart defects are choosing to go into the medical field. What do you do to stay well? I know that being a nurse and being a doctor is so physically demanding. Brandon, what do you do to stay well? We'll start with you.

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   28:29
early in medical school, when I found out I needed to have open heart surgery again, the pediatric cardiologists there gave me some sound bites. "You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else." And even in med school, I would make sure that I had down time. I love to travel. I love to write, take walks, swim, listen to audio books. Recently, Chris talked me into getting my own puppy, which has been tons of fun,  

Anna Jaworski:   28:57
Oh, neat!

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   28:57
and I think also for all congenital heart disease patients. One of the most important things that you can do to take care of yourself is to go to your follow-ups with your metric or cardiologist or adult congenital cardiac specialist.  

Anna Jaworski:   29:09
Yes.

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   29:10
I've seen so many patients that delayed their care and came when they were in dire straits, where if they had come for their routine care, things could have been caught earlier.

Anna Jaworski:   0:00
Right  

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   29:18
So,  I think that really is probably one of the most important things someone with congenital heart disease can do is continue with your follow-ups.

Anna Jaworski:   29:25
Right. Oh, I agree with you 100%. Chris, what about you? Nursing can be very physically demanding. What do you do to stay well?

Chris Donald, RN.:   29:35
I do not like to sit still. So I think most of it is; keep yourself busy, keep well mentally. I love spending time with my son and my husband. The other thing is we are die-hard, do-it-yourselves remodelers and so at work, they're used to me remodeling my kitchen, we just built a backyard patio, and it gives you a mental break. I mean, it's, it's still demanding to come home and remodel your kitchen in your spare time. But it kind of is that mental break and getting things done and just, I don't know, enjoying the time you have

Anna Jaworski:   30:17
Right, and totally different than what you're doing during the day, where you're helping those patients, and you can see an end in sight. Whereas when you're working with patients, hopefully, there's always gonna be tomorrow, and who knows what new problems might pop up. But when it comes to doing the remodeling, eventually there is an end in sight.  

Chris Donald, RN.:   30:36
There is, thankfully,  

Anna Jaworski:   30:37
Right, right. Right now it's April 2020 and for those of you who are listening to this show right as is coming out, which is going to be in May 2020, we are dealing with a pandemic. We're dealing with the Coronavirus, or COVID-19. I'm wondering how that has affected you as heart patients because both of you are in that at-risk category. So Chris. How has the Coronavirus affected you and your work?  

Chris Donald, RN.:   31:10
We're doing everything we can to keep our patients safe, and then, we just don't go out. We stay home. 

Anna Jaworski:   31:19
Yeah. So you're following the same directions that everybody else in the country is pretty much supposed to be following?

Chris Donald, RN.:   31:26
Yes. And my mom made us some beautiful masks mine is Texas Tech.

Anna Jaworski:   31:31
There you go. What about you, Dr Phillips? What were you doing during a Coronavirus? How is that affecting your health?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   31:38
Just staying at home more, doing the social distancing. I'm seeing a lot of patients virtually from home, coming into the clinic when I need to. But Chris and I have always done a really good job because we are at higher risk for really for any respiratory virus. So Even throughout the years, if someone comes in with a cough or cold word gowning, masking, gloving, doing all of those things, we probably go maybe even a little bit overboard, but we both know that we are at higher risk even just during normal respiratory season.

Anna Jaworski:   32:06
Right, right. Well, I think that's fair, and I think that's wise, that you are aware that even the flu and even those other illnesses that can attack the chest and especially the lungs, that you are at risk for that

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   32:20
Yeah, even a common cold, I seem to keep it a little bit longer than most people and seemed to be a little bit more down with it. So I usually just try to do everything I can, during that time of year, just to keep myself healthy,

Anna Jaworski:   32:32
right? Right.  

Chris Donald, RN.:   32:34
We do a lot to make sure that we're wearing what we need to be wearing if our patients are sick. I remember when I was pregnant, and if there was a patient that was coughing or anything, they kept me out of the room at that time.

Anna Jaworski:   32:50
Well, that's good, but it's good that they were aware. And I think that living with congenital heart disease, we are more aware of germs, don't you? Because I think that I keep my house cleaner now than before having a child with a heart defect just because I was aware of the germs that could cause illness with Alex. Do you feel that since you were raised with a heart defect that maybe you're a little bit more aware than somebody who wasn't?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   33:21
Definitely. My mom did everything in her power to keep the home as clean as she possibly could, and during the pandemic, mom"s actually staying here with me and every day she finds something here in my house that needs to be clean, whether it really needs it or not.

Anna Jaworski:   33:35
(laughter) I'm sure she's right and it does need to be cleaned. Dr. Phillips. What about you, Chris? Do you think that maybe you were a little bit more aware of germs and keeping things clean since you were raised with a heart defect?

Chris Donald, RN.:   33:49
So I'm going to go on the opposite end.  

Anna Jaworski:   33:53
Oh, no!

Chris Donald, RN.:   33:53
I know. So I was raised in South Texas on six acres. My parents bought a house on the hill. It was a gorgeous house that hadn't been occupied in 10 years. It was falling apart. My grandfather looked at my parents and said, "What are you doing buying this house?" So I guess my remodeling love comes from them because,  

Anna Jaworski:   34:19
Sounds like it.  

Chris Donald, RN.:   34:20
They completely remodeled this house and it later sold for an amount, I mean, it was gorgeous. So I kind of was raised in old house, at least 100 years old, not the best condition. My parents did what they could. It had the old shag carpet. You could vacuum it, but you can't do much for it. So, I guess I could say my mom did the best she could to keep that house clean, but we lived in an old farmhouse. I went outside and I ate dirt.

Anna Jaworski:   34:53
So you are not a germophobe.

Chris Donald, RN.:   34:59
You know, I do my best to keep my house clean and wiped down, but a little dirt isn't gonna hurt you.

Anna Jaworski:   35:05
Well, that is true. That is true. It's interesting that you kind of have the opposite reaction of what I expected you to have, Chris. I love it. Well, what advice would you have for other heart warriors who are wanting a career in the medical field? And, Chris, I'm going to start with you because it seems like I've met a lot more people who are in the congenital heart defect community who decide to go into nursing. So what advice would you give them?

Chris Donald, RN.:   35:34
Go for it! Don't give up on your dreams. A nurse is a very rewarding job. I love it. I wouldn't want anything else. Know that it's going to be tough, but in the end, it's gonna be worth it.

Anna Jaworski:   35:50
I love it. What about you, Dr. Phillips? It's really demanding to go into residency. And if you want to be a surgeon or specialist, you can easily devote, what, 8-12 years of your life to a field? What do you want to say to somebody who was born with a heart defect who thinks they may want to do that?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   36:10
Well, first of all, develop study skills and study hard, but also spend time in a medical clinic shadowing. Make sure that medicine is really your dream and not necessarily someone else's dream. Because it really is a huge investment in time to get through school. It took me 14 years to complete all of my training. Four years of college, four years of med school, three years of residency, three years of fellowship.  

Anna Jaworski:   36:34
Wow

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   36:35
And I think the thing that I learned from that is, don't look at your schooling and training as a part of time that's separate from your life. It really as part of your life and embrace it and really make the most of it and make friendships and do all the things that you can do during that time to make it enjoyable and rewarding.

Anna Jaworski:   36:56
I love that. That's perfect advice. Thank you so much. Dr. Phillips and Chris for coming on the show,

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD.:   37:04
So glad to be here. Thank you for having us.

Chris Donald, RN.:   37:07
Thank you so much for inviting us. I enjoyed this.

Anna Jaworski:   37:11
I'm so glad you did it, Chris. This was so much fun. And that's it for this week's episode. If you enjoyed listening to this episode, please consider becoming a patron. Just go to www.patreon.com/hearttoheart and pledge a monthly amount to support our program. We really do appreciate your support. Have a great week, my friends and remember, you are not alone.

spk_2:   37:33
Thank you again for joining us this week. We hope you have been inspired and empowered to become an advocate for the congenital heart defect community. Heart to Heart with Anna, with your Host, Anna Jaworski, can be heard every Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern Time.