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A teen's life after 12 heart surgeries

Casey Dyke has been told he is a mended little miracle. 

When his mother Gina Dyke was pregnant, a routine ultrasound and prenatal testing at UC Davis Health revealed that her unborn son had a missing tricuspid valve (a congenital heart defect known as tricuspid atresia). He would need a series of surgeries to repair the defect after birth. 

Casey was Gina and Michael’s first baby and the news was devastating. 

"We literally didn't know if he was going to make it, and we were scared to ask," said Gina Dyke. "All you're thinking is, 'He has to live.’” 

“Dr. Raff is a superhero,” said Michael Dyke. “He was really there for Casey and he really helped us with what we were going through as new parents.”   

Gina was induced and Casey was born three weeks early, after doctors saw that his heart rate was dropping in the womb. Casey’s first surgery – the Norwood procedure to reconfigure his heart and circulatory systems – took place only 10 days after his birth. Over the next four years, Casey would have four open-heart surgeries, all performed by UC Davis pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Gary Raff from the UC Davis Pediatric Heart Center

“Dr. Raff is a superhero,” said Michael Dyke. “He was really there for Casey and he really helped us with what we were going through as new parents.”   

Raff said that being able to participate in the care of a critically ill child is a big responsibility.

“It’s why we do what we do. It’s not just our surgical expertise that we provide but also patient-centered care, making sure we are taking care of the family during their time of need and helping them see there is a bright future ahead,” Raff said.

Casey Dyke

The Dyke family turned to UC Davis Health once more when they learned that Casey was having trouble hearing. He had more surgeries ahead. There were ear tubes – twice – and then he had his adenoids removed. His ear surgeon Rodney Diaz found the answer:  Casey had a cholesteatoma, a fluid-filled cyst that can develop behind the ear drum, and it was surgically removed. The cholesteatoma caused permanent damage to his left ear. He wears a hearing aid, but it doesn’t hold him back from living his life.  

All in all, Casey has had 12 surgeries. Gina and Michael Dyke estimate that he spent a year in the UC Davis Pediatric and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (PICU/PCICU) at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, off and on, recovering from those surgeries and battling other health problems during his childhood. It has become a home away from home. The team has become like family, they said.   

Now 16 years old, Casey is living a normal teenage life. He enjoys photography, fishing and being outdoors. He is smart and is considering a career in engineering. His future is bright.   

"It's amazing that a boy born with the odds against him can go on to have such a normal life. I'm extremely grateful for what UC Davis has done for him," Gina Dyke said.