Boy celebrates new heart valves following rare surgery

The family of an 11-year-old Glendale boy who underwent a rare form of heart surgery in May returned to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles this week to celebrate the success of his treatment with the La Cañada Flintridge cardiologist who headed up the procedure.

Brian Frounzian was born with two defective valves on the right side of his heart, a condition that made it difficult for his body to mix oxygen with blood and that required multiple surgeries from the time he was just 3 weeks old.

PHOTOS: Boy celebrates new heart valves following rare surgery

When replacement valves began to wear out last year, Brian suffered fatigue and struggled to keep up with other kids his age, his 17-year-old sister, Ani Frounzian, said.

But now Brian is back playing sports and taking karate lessons after receiving two new heart valves through a pioneering method that avoided open-heart surgery and was the first of its kind performed at Children’s Hospital.

During a roughly four-hour catheterization procedure, doctors inserted new heart valves made from the veins of a cow and protected by stents into Brian’s heart via an artery in his leg.

“It’s gratifying to see we can put these valves in without having to open his heart and, by the next morning, he’s walking out of the hospital. He’s back to just being a little kid,” said Dr. Frank Ing, associate chief of cardiology at Children’s Hospital, who led the team that performed Brian’s procedure.

Cardiologist Cheryl Takao, also of La Cañada, assisted in the procedure — one of only a handful ever performed in the United States, Ing said.

On Monday, Brian’s father, celebrated Armenian dhol drummer Seroj Avoyan, teared up as he performed songs alongside Brian and his band mates for a handful of children undergoing treatment at the hospital.

“When I saw the other children, I remembered when Brian was going through his surgeries and all the years he was in the hospital, and I got emotional. I wish all of them health,” he said.

Brian’s mother, Ruzan Frounzian, said she was relieved that her son will remain healthy for the foreseeable future.

Brian said he’s looking forward to the years ahead.

“(After the surgery), I felt better. … I was able to be like the other kids and have fun,” Brian said.

“I want to say thank you for the surgery, giving me enough energy and making me feel better,” he said to Ing.


Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.


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