John, Lisa, Rachel, Andy and Hannah Cruden pose for a photo on the beach and smile.The Crudens looks like your average family. But three of the five members have a congenital heart defect, including John (the dad), Rachel (the oldest daughter) and Andy the (son).

Mom Lisa and youngest daughter Hannah do not.

“She and I are the odd ones in our family,” Lisa Cruden said with a laugh.

Both Rachel and Andy have received care since birth from Samuel Lacina, MD, a pediatric cardiologist with the Congenital Heart Center at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. They currently see Dr. Lacina at least once a year for check-ups.

“Dr. Lacina told us very early on that each heart patient writes their own story: procedures, surgeries, medications and activity level vary between patients,” Lisa shared. “Such useful advice to young parents at that time. Our family is a good example of this.”

Meet the Crudens

Rachel is 15 years old and in 10th grade at Rockford High School. She loves to dance: ballet, jazz and tap.

Rachel’s heart defect was discovered right after birth; she was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart, Pulmonary Stenosis. She had a balloon placed in her pulmonary valve to widen it and left the hospital after three weeks.

At six weeks, she had open heart surgery. The Bi-Directional Glen procedure re-routes blood flow directly to her lungs, since her heart could not pump all the blood to the body on its own. She was the youngest patient at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to have this type of surgery.

Rachel’s next surgery was at age 10, when she received a new tricuspid valve. The surgery took place at another health care facility because the services were not yet available in West Michigan.

Andy is a 14-year-old eighth grader in East Rockford Middle School. He is an avid baseball player, alternating between pitcher and the outfield.

Doctors found Andy’s heart defect during an echo cardiogram when Lisa was 23 weeks pregnant. He had his first heart surgery at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital at 2 weeks old, a Blalock Taussig shunt, to redirect blood flow in his body. Doctors knew he would outgrow this, so at 18 months he had open heart surgery to take down the shunt and repair his heart valves.

That was sufficient until this year, when Andy needed his pulmonary valve replaced. The surgery was performed by Marcus Haw, FRCS, a cardiovascular surgeon and co-director of the Congenital Heart Center.

John, 42, had his heart defect discovered during a sports physical in eighth grade and received care from the same group of cardiologists as Rachel and Andy. His first procedure was at age 27 at Meijer Heart Center, when he received a new aortic valve, repaired mitral valve and a Teflon graft for an aneurysm in his aortic root. Six years later he had his mitral valve replaced.

He sees his cardiologist once a year. In his free time, John enjoys running with Lisa and hunting with Andy.

The Crudens love to go on walks together and watch movies, and are passionate about traveling. Their favorite spots so far are Tennessee and Hawaii.

“One would have a hard time believing how healthy and active our family is, and how little we focus on the heart issues,” Lisa said “Rachel, Andy and John are wonderful examples of living a life not defined by what they cannot do, but what they still can do”