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Video Spotlight

CBS Sunday Morning News takes a look at the University of Oklahoma Anesthesia Department and their use of the OU College Of Medicine's Clinical Skills Education & Testing Center.
CBS Sunday Morning News

OU Medicine News

News Release


Date: Sept 14, 2016

For more information:
Vallery Brown
OU Medical Center/The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center
Office: (405) 271-7900 X9
Cell (405) 417-2401

Breakthrough heart procedure has Moore student back on his feet and back on the baseball field

The minimally invasive procedure is offered in Oklahoma only at The Children’s Hospital 

Oklahoma City — A breakthrough heart procedure, offered in Oklahoma only at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center, helped 13-year-old Sam Palmer get out of his hospital bed within a day and back on the baseball field covering third base in just a few weeks … without missing a beat. 

The Medtronic Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve procedure takes only a few hours to complete, bypasses the invasiveness of open-heart surgery and results in days instead of weeks of recovery time for patients with congenital (present at birth) pulmonary heart valve issues.

Sam’s procedure took a little less than three hours on Aug. 25. A congenital heart valve defect was disrupting blood flow from Sam’s heart to his lungs, resulting in oxygen-poor blood being pumped through his body.

The condition had required two previous open-heart surgeries – one just days after birth and another when Sam was 5 years old.

This time, there were no long surgeries or chest scars. The Children’s Heart Center pediatric cardiologist Dr. Charles Sperrazza used a vein in Sam’s leg as a pathway, placing the new Melody Valve onto a catheter and guiding it to Sam’s heart.

 “Before this procedure, kids like Sam would have had to have another open-heart surgery,” said Sperrazza. “He would have missed fall baseball this year.”

Only a few months ago, Sam’s parents, Lori and Jason Palmer, of Moore, had noticed their normally active youngest son begin to lose energy. His appetite decreased and he was complaining about his chest hurting.

They knew the symptoms well.

When doctors cut Sam’s umbilical cord shortly after he was born Oct. 29, 2002, Sam turned blue. He was diagnosed with the congenital heart defect Tetralogy of Fallot with atresia of his pulmonary valve. It meant doctors would have to repair Sam’s heart valve every five to 10 years as he grew.

“When he was 5 years old, it was time for his second surgery. I noticed the sweating more and he had less energy,” said Lori Palmer. “We’d be doing things and he’d be the one sweating.”

Following the second open-heart surgery, the family monitored Sam, who grew and developed like a typical kid. They moved from Florida to Oklahoma in 2014 and had to find Sam a new cardiologist. 

The Children’s Heart Center pediatric cardiologist Dr. Mary Niu told the Palmers there might be way to avoid another surgery by having the Medtronic Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve procedure. In Oklahoma, the procedure is only offered at Children’s.

 “We thought he was going to have to have another open-heart surgery,” said Lori Palmer. “It was a relief to learn about the Melody Valve.”

Jason Palmer said the family was concerned Sam wouldn’t be able to play baseball. The Melody Valve procedure meant Sam didn’t have to miss weeks of school or baseball practice, among other benefits. 

“This helps Sam, prolongs his life and helps prevent other issues he might have,” said Jason Palmer.

Open-heart surgery is often the only option for many patients needing fixes to their hearts. Depending on a person’s health, it can take six to eight weeks to recover from the surgery. The more open-heart surgeries a person has, the riskier the next one will be because of scarring, Sperrazza said.

“The Melody Valve procedure is a lot less invasive and it doesn’t leave a scar,” Sperrazza said. “Patients are back to normal activity much faster.”

And instead of artificial tissues being used to patch up the heart valve, the Melody Valve is made of natural tissue, so the body typically accepts it much easier.

“You can see a huge difference in his appearance now. He’s eating more. He’s not winded after running to a base,” said Lori Palmer.

For Sam, the only evidence of his heart journey is the long scar on his chest from his surgeries as a newborn and a 5-year-old.

“We’re hoping this procedure will give patients a few decades of not having surgery,” said Sperrazza.



The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center has 314 inpatient beds and is the only freestanding pediatric hospital in Oklahoma solely dedicated to the treatment of children. Our pediatric staff blends years of specialized pediatric training with education, research and technology to treat conditions ranging from cardiothoracic and oncology-related illnesses to neonatal specialty care and pediatric solid-organ transplants. Our 93-bed neonatal intensive care unit provides the highest level of neonatal care in Oklahoma. The Children’s Heart Center brings cutting-edge research, treatment and surgery to patients with congenital and acquired heart conditions. We have the state’s largest staff of child life specialists to help children and families cope with hospitalization. U.S. News & World Report also ranks Children’s as one of the best urology programs in the country. To learn more, visit and find us on Facebook.