Originally created 01/30/97

Heart of the matter



Daniel Moretz looks like a normal, red-haired, 5-year-old boy until he lifts his shirt. A thick white scar runs down the center of his chest, surrounded by a web of smaller white scars. He grins, and says, "I had to get the pacemaker over here," touching the left side.

Then he drops the shirt and returns to the Spiderman comic book he is reading in the playroom of the Children's Medical Center on the eighth floor of the Medical College of Georgia. A few seconds later, he's off rummaging through the magazine rack for something else.

After 64 hours of surgery that began the fourth day of his life, Daniel's constant chattering and the whirlwind of destruction he creates in the playroom is a beautiful sight for his parents, David and Julie Moretz of Augusta.

Daniel and other children with heart problems are the reason about 700 people will gather Saturday at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta for the Second Annual Doctors Who Cook benefit for the Children's Heart Program. The program is following the cases of 4,000 children with heart problems. The $50 tickets to the benefit help pay for lodging and travel expenses for parents and vacations for weary family members. Proceeds also help purchase medical alert bracelets that detail the child's medical history, said Mrs. Moretz, one of the organizers of Saturday's event.

Daniel's bracelet has a lengthy history detailed on several small metallic pages, something his parents never guessed would happen when he was born. A doctor's stroll through the University Hospital nursery when Daniel was just 2 days old may have saved his life.

"(The doctor) was just walking through the nursery looking at the babies and he saw Daniel and, ooh, didn't like the color," Mr. Moretz said. Two days later, Daniel was at MCG going under the knife for the first of eight heart surgeries.

Doctors discovered that Daniel's right ventricle had never really developed, leaving him a single heart chamber where used blood and oxygen-rich blood mixed. His body was starved for oxygenated blood. The critical artery pathways above the heart had also formed in the opposite direction, a mirror of a normal healthy artery system, Mr. Moretz said.

In his short life, Daniel has suffered a stroke and had two pacemakers installed. But Daniel doesn't like to talk about it. He wants to talk about Venom, a super-villain whose strength surpasses that of Spiderman.

"He can pick the fat guys up," Daniel said. And some day, he thinks he will, too, as a firefighter with a metallic left arm that will shoot water and put out all the fires.

Daniel's future is not as certain to his parents, but they are relieved to even be in the playroom to talk about it. From the first surgery, the odds have been against Daniel.

"At that point there was a 70 percent chance," Mrs. Moretz said.

So many have followed that the family made a resume of Daniel's surgeries and hospital stays

that is now two pages long. One day, they pray it will contain a new procedure that will allow him to lead a fairly normal life.

"Technology changes; medical science changes down the road," Mr. Moretz said.

"That's what we're hoping for with Daniel," Mrs. Moretz said.

That's why the doctors' group is hoping to fund two scholarships in the complex field of pediatric cardiology. There is also hope that research into the causes of the life-threatening defects could result in treatments to correct the defects before the children are born, said William Strong, chief of pediatric cardiology and Daniel's doctor. Many defects can be identified just four months into the pregnancy. Some doctors are already attempting surgeries while the child is still in the womb.

Compared to 20 years ago, "hope and results are markedly improved," Dr. Strong said.

A Volunteer Council made up of experienced parents provides support for families who have just learned that their child has a heart problem.

"They're able to educate them and in many cases provide a significant amount of hope and understanding," Dr. Strong said.

Sometimes it is as simple as buying the bracelets for families that can't afford them, or listening to a late-night phone call from another parent waiting out a long surgery and recovery.

Parents have also been able to persuade the hospital to make changes, such as putting trundle beds in patient rooms so parents can sleep next to their children and not in the car or the lobby, Mrs. Moretz said. Kids themselves are able to give input on everything from color schemes to the menu.

Saturday's event is supposed to be a good time, but a centerpiece made from children's shoes on each table will serve as a reminder of the evening's purpose.

Still, the event is fun for the doctors who share the recipes and has even evolved into a friendly rivalry among the cooks, said Lynne Coule, a physician in the pediatric intensive care unit, who will be sharing her stuffed shrimp with hollandaise sauce.

"I had to stand next to the lobster tails last year, and I said, `By golly, I'm going to cook something a little more elegant next year,'°" Dr. Coule said.

While Saturday's event is a welcome diversion, parents like David and Julie Moretz know life will never be normal. But like many parents, they have tried to turn what has happened to their child into something that will help others.

"This means something," Mr. Moretz said. "It's going to help other families. It's going to help those who will not know until their child is born that they need it."

Physician Lynne Coule will prepare this dish for the Doctors Who Cook benefit Saturday at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta. For ticket information, call Julie Moretz at 736-2554. The Children's Heart Program Volunteer Council will also publish a cookbook of doctor's recipes to help raise funds for the program. Any doctor may submit recipes. For more information, call Mrs. Moretz at 736-2554.

STUFFED SHRIMP WITH HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

24 fresh jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails attached

1/4 cup butter, divided

1 medium onion

1/2 sweet red pepper, finely chopped

1/2 green pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon Cajun or Creole seasoning

1/2 cup fine, dry bread crumbs

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup mayonnaise

8 ounces crabmeat, canned or fresh, picked over and chopped

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons Chablis or other dry white wine

Hollandaise sauce (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butterfly shrimp by making a deep slit down the back, cutting to but not through the inside curve. Set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan. Add onion, peppers and garlic, cooking until tender, stirring often. Stir in seasoning and bread crumbs and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine egg, mayonnaise and crab and stir into onion seasoning mixture.

Stuff each shrimp with about 3 tablespoons of crab mixture and arrange on a 15-by-10-by-1-inch jellyroll pan. Try and keep stuffing side up.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan, stir in lemon juice and wine and drizzle over shrimp.

Bake shrimp at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove to plates and top with hollandaise sauce. Makes 6-8 servings.

HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

1 cup egg substitute or 2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup butter, divided, room temperature

Combine egg substitute and salt in heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Gradually whisk in lemon juice.

Remove from heat and add ¬ cup butter 2 tablespoons at a time, beat well after each addition.

Pour into electric blender. With blender running on high, drop remaining butter in 2 tablespoons at a time, blend until smooth.

Return to saucepan to keep warm and place pan in a double boiler or larger pan of hot water. Yields 2 cups.