Learn more about our Austin expansion

New North hospital now open

Abby, who receives care in Texas Children's Adult Congenital Heart Disease program is pictured next to the words, Lifelong Care, Lasting Impact. Headshot Image.png
Texas Children’s Hospital

Abby’s Journey in Texas Children’s Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program

Abby Kenigsberg is a geologist, CrossFit enthusiast and lifelong patient at Texas Children’s Hospital. Born with tetralogy of Fallot, a complex congenital heart defect, Abby’s health journey has been guided by our dedicated Heart Center team through childhood and into adulthood thanks to the establishment of our Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) program. 

Like Abby, some patients in our ACHD program begin their pediatric care in our top-ranked Heart Center. Others come to us in adulthood seeking a cardiology team that understands the nuances of congenital heart conditions and past procedures and can offer new life-enhancing therapies. 

Abby’s story is a powerful example of how dedicated, personalized care by an exceptional team can positively impact adults living with congenital heart disease. 

Tetralogy of Fallot and Early Care at our Heart Center 

Abby was born in Corpus Christi in 1992. Shortly after birth, she was diagnosed with tetralogy of Fallot, a condition involving four significant heart defects. Her parents, understandably anxious and seeking the best care, were advised by a family friend to take her to Texas Children’s. Dr. Tim Bricker, her first cardiologist, and Dr. David Ott, who performed her surgery at just nine months old, became important figures in Abby’s early life. 

“My mom loved Dr. Bricker and the entire team,” Abby recalls. “They made my parents feel secure and hopeful during a stressful time.” 

Tetralogy of Fallot involves four key heart issues: a mix-up of oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood, a hole between the heart’s ventricles, narrowing of the pulmonary artery, and a malfunctioning valve that causes blood regurgitation. Abby’s initial surgery addressed the hole and some other issues, but ongoing monitoring was essential to manage the narrowing artery, valve regurgitation and degree of ventricular hypertrophy. 

Family photos of Abby as an infant receiving care at Texas Children's.

Family photos of Abby as an infant receiving care at Texas Children’s.

Transitioning to Adult Care 

Abby continued her care at our pediatric hospital when she went away to college. While in grad school in the northeast, she would return to Texas regularly for appointments. Since the opening Texas Children’s first-of-its-kind ACHD facility in 2020, and now that Abby lives and works in Houston, it is even easier to maintain her care under the watchful eyes of Dr. Wilson Lam. 

“I’ve never had a doctor like him. Even during the pandemic, when I emailed him, he responded within an hour. That’s been the case several times,” Abby shares. 

Over the years, Abby’s condition has stabilized, allowing her to have checkups every other year. A recent decision to switch from annual MRIs with contrast to echocardiograms reduces the intensity of her monitoring without compromising her care.  

“What’s really great about the care team at Texas Children’s is they are constantly reevaluating my treatment plan based on science and what the medical community is saying,” Abby shares. 

Living a Full and Active Life with CHD 

Despite her condition, Abby has always led an active life. She played tennis, softball, and basketball in high school and continued with intramural sports in college and grad school. Now, as a geologist, she is often outdoors, enjoys hiking and has taken up CrossFit, a passion she shares with her wife, who is a marathon runner. 

“I have had issues at elevation, but I listen to my body, take a pause when I need it and keep going. There are things about me that my peers don’t face but nothing has ever stopped me in my tracks,” Abby notes. 

With her scientific background, Abby appreciates the uncertainties and complexities of medical science. She values the thoroughness of her care team, which has always left her feeling well-supported. 

“Dr. Lam went back through decades of my records when I had a question about my stabilized condition and what that meant. For a doctor to spend that much time with an asymptomatic patient and listen to my concerns, I think really is rare,” Abby marvels. 

Abby training at District H Strength & Fitness in Houston. Photos by Mark Staudt

Providing Empowering and Cutting-Edge Adult Care 

Dr. Lam is renowned for his detailed explanations, often illustrated on a whiteboard during consultations. Nurses frequently point out, “That’s a Dr. Lam whiteboard.” 

“Education is the most empowering tool we can offer our patients in the outpatient setting,” Dr. Lam explains.  “I want my patients to be the most knowledgeable person in the room when discussing their congenital heart disease because patients invested in maintaining the best health possible have the best shot at leading fuller, longer and more active lives.” 

Our ACHD program has experts in imaging, obstetric cardiology, electrophysiology, interventions and structural heart disease, and heart failure and heritable conditions, who engage regularly in multidisciplinary collaboration. Dr. Lam emphasizes,  

“Working well together helps ensure the best outcome possible for our patients.” 

As Abby described, our ACHD team keeps up with novel strategies and therapies, often extrapolating risks and benefits for an adult population underrepresented in studies and research. Adapting to fast-paced changes in medical literature and guidelines are the responsibility of a top-notch healthcare team like ours at Texas Children’s. 

“Sometimes conventional treatments meet their limits. Offering hope can require thinking outside the box and borrowing from the latest reports,” says Dr. Lam. “Knowing that patients don’t have to wait a decade to see innovations trickle into the CHD arena allows our patients to reap the benefits that non-CHD hearts are now seeing.” 

If you’re looking for a rewarding career where you can make a significant difference in the lives of patients like Abby, consider joining our Adult Congenital Heart Disease team at Texas Children’s Hospital. Our commitment to staying at the forefront of medical science and functioning as a cohesive and very specialized team makes us a unique and fulfilling place to work. Together, we can continue to transform lives and set new standards in adult congenital heart disease care. Explore careers in our Heart Center and apply today.