When Brandon Lane Phillips, M.D., talks to parents about their children's heart defects, he understands better than most their worries and fears. That's because Dr. Phillips isn't just a pediatric cardiologist. He's also a congenital heart disease survivor, born with tetralogy of Fallot. It's an experience that allows him "to connect with families and provide reassurance that a heart defect isn't a death sentence," according to the News Star.
Dr. Phillips, who completed a pediatric cardiology fellowship at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, has dreamed of caring for kids like himself since he was a kid himself. "Growing up, I absolutely adored my pediatric cardiologist," he tells our friends at Sharing Mayo Clinic. "From the time I could walk and talk, being a pediatric cardiologist was the only thing I ever wanted to do."
As a child, Dr. Phillips received care in Texas. While in medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans, he learned he'd need an additional surgery. That brought him to Mayo Clinic, where he discovered "the patient care was different than what I was used to in many ways," he tells Sharing Mayo Clinic. It was a difference Dr. Phillips was drawn to, and he pursued opportunities to learn about it, first as a visiting medical student and later during his fellowship. "Seeing Mayo Clinic care as a student rather than a patient was absolutely eye-opening. It was amazing to see how efficient and patient-centered the clinic really is."
Today, Dr. Phillips has realized his childhood dream, and he is caring for patients in his home state of Louisiana. His nurse, Chris Donald, is also a congenital heart disease survivor, and like Dr. Phillips, Donald received care at Mayo Clinic, the News Star reports. "According to Phillips, they are one of the few—if not the only—physician-nurse teams caring for children with congenital heart disease who are CHD survivors themselves," the publication reports.
While it may seem like he was destined to be where he is today, there was a time Dr. Phillips wasn't sure he'd live long enough to make his dream come true. As a child, he worried that his heart condition might cut his life short. Dr. Phillips' condition was considered serious enough that he was granted a wish from Starlight Children's Foundation, and he chose to visit the set of the TV show Growing Pains. The experience had a major impact on his outlook and his life, and he's written about it in a new book, When I Wished Upon a Star: From Broken Homes to Mended Hearts, which he co-authored with Jeremy Miller, the actor who played his favorite character on the show.
"The Starlight wish set into motion the idea that if I could go from Jena (Louisiana) to Hollywood, I could go from despair to hope, from an adolescent death sentence to the fulfilling life I have today as a pediatric cardiologist," he writes.