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Congenital heart patient and nurse forge a 15-year friendship

Linda Underwood and Barb Goebel during nursing school.

Nurse Barb Goebel helps Amanda Kwok on her health care journey into adulthood

(SACRAMENTO) — Born with only three functioning heart chambers instead of four, Amanda Kwok had health challenges from her very first day of life.

Amanda Kwok

Amanda Kwok

“I found out two months before her birth about her heart defect in an ultrasound. I received a lot of love and support from my family and friends and Amanda had a lot of people praying for her. This helped me get through stressful times and stay positive,” said Linda Underwood, Amanda’s mother, who is a nurse.

With less oxygenated blood flow, Amanda’s lips, hands and feet were sometimes purple, and she would tire easily. Amanda had her first open-heart procedure, the Glenn shunt, at six months old. Her second open-heart procedure, the Fontan procedure, was at 2 years old. The surgeries, which took place at a Bay Area hospital, helped rebuild parts of her heart and improve blood flow throughout her body.  

The family moved from the Bay Area to Lincoln when Amanda was 6 years old and discovered that Barb Goebel, one of Linda’s friends from nursing school, was a pediatric cardiology nurse at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

“It was a wonderful surprise,” Underwood said. “Barb is an excellent nurse and has been such a support over the years. We’ve been very impressed with all of the care Amanda has had over the years at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.”

Nursing School Buddies

Linda Underwood and Barb Goebel during nursing school.

For more than 15 years, Goebel has assisted the family through Amanda’s checkups, procedures and appointments. 

“Amanda is a lovely young lady. It’s so nice to see our complex heart kids grow up to be nice functioning young adults,” Goebel said. “As we continue to advance in the field of congenital heart defects (CHD), both surgically and medically, we will continue to see more children like Amanda with complex forms of CHD who are thriving well into adulthood.”

Amanda is now 23 years old and a college graduate with a business degree. She continues to receive care from pediatric cardiologist Jay Yeh and the UC Davis Pediatric Cardiology team. She takes daily heart medication and continues to get routine tests and procedures to evaluate her cardiovascular health.

“I’ve had a great experience. Everyone knows what they are doing and they are good at explaining everything so you know what to expect,” Amanda Kwok said.