Evie Winkler was 1 week old when she underwent her first open-heart surgery. Before birth, Evie was diagnosed with only one ventricle in her heart, and her parents, Jennie and Zack Winkler of Midland, weighed the alternatives.
After visiting multiple locations for care and speaking to numerous skilled physicians during the pregnancy, they chose to entrust Evie’s life to the expert hands of S. Adil Husain, M.D., pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at UT Health San Antonio.
Evie was born Oct. 11, 2016, at UT Health’s clinical partner and teaching facility, University Hospital. The first of multiple surgeries to repair her heart took place Oct. 18, 2016.
Last week the Winkler family, including Evie, traveled to San Antonio for a joyful reunion with Dr. Husain, professor and chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at UT Health. They were honored guests at the 2017 President’s Gala hosted by President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP. More than a thousand attended the event Sept. 23 at the Grand Hyatt.
A new fund to fight heart disease
Proceeds will establish the Lacie and Joe Gorder President’s Endowment in Heart Disease Research. Joe Gorder is chairman, president and CEO of Valero Energy Corp. He and Mrs. Gorder are interested in helping children born with heart defects. Honorary chairs of the President’s Gala were Bill and Margie Klesse. Mr. Klesse is the former chairman, president and CEO of Valero Energy Corp.
At the gala, Dr. Henrich announced that the Gorders “have made a personal pledge that essentially matches all the funds raised tonight, so that the new endowment will be, at its inception, over $1 million.”
The Gorder President’s Endowment will help to find new therapies and cures, shape prevention protocols and ensure access to cutting-edge health care that benefits patients across the life span. UT Health San Antonio’s cadre of adult and pediatric cardiovascular disease physicians are experienced experts in treating the most-complex cases, and are a crucial resource for referrals from San Antonio, South Texas and beyond.
Disease affects young and old alike
Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of adults in Texas, and each year nearly 4,000 Texas children are born with a congenital heart defect.
“While the impact of heart disease is staggering, advances in research are improving the prevention, early detection and treatment of heart disease in adults and helping more infants with congenital heart disease, like Evie, to survive to adulthood,” Dr. Henrich said.
Each year the President’s Gala raises more than $500,000 to support clinical, research and education programs of the university. Past galas have established funds to support programs in multiple areas, including trauma care, cancer care and research, and, in 2016, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Not yet a victory lap
“Our goal tonight is met to fund a new research endowment in heart disease at UT Health San Antonio,” Dr. Henrich said. “You may be aware that in the last decade, progress in research has produced new therapies and this has led, for the first time in the modern era, to a reduction in overall mortality and morbidity from heart disease. But this is not the time to do a victory lap.”
Cardiovascular disease accounted for more than 800,000 deaths last year in the U.S. and is still the leading cause of death in Americans, responsible for 1 in every 3 deaths. More than 90 million Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease, and 2,200 Americans die every day from the disease. The cost of heart disease approached $350 billion in the U.S. last year. By 2030, the costs of global cardiovascular disease will be over $1 trillion.
Dr. Henrich recounted the case of a famous Texan who suffered what was thought to be indigestion on a golf course in 1955. He was treated with antacids and bed rest at a hotel. After 12 hours, he was taken to a hospital where an acute heart attack was diagnosed. The treatment was morphine, bed rest, a sedative and heavy cream so as not to upset his stomach.
“Despite the attentive, but by today’s reckoning primitive, therapy he received, Dwight Eisenhower, the president of the United States, recovered,” Dr. Henrich said.
Fund honors Gorders
Because of the progress that has been made, and because we need to understand heart disease even better, it is fitting to have created this endowment at UT Health San Antonio in Joe and Lacie Gorder’s names, Dr. Henrich said. “It’s in their hearts and ours to do so,” he said.
In addition to establishing the Lacie and Joe Gorder President’s Endowment in Heart Disease Research, Dr. Henrich announced that a special, current use fund will be created: the Lacie and Joe Gorder Pediatric Heart Care and Family Support Fund.
Mrs. Gorder had a little sister, Melinda Lou Miller, who was born with what was described as a hole in her heart. She had surgery to correct it, but this was not enough and she died in her third month of life. Lacie would have loved to have had the chance to play with her little sister, Dr. Henrich said.
And the Gorders have a friend whose grandson was born with cardiac anomalies. This little boy had surgery when he was 8 days old and recently celebrated his first birthday. “He has another surgery in front of him to correct a remaining issue, but today’s science and technology enable us to have a great sense of hope that total correction will result,” Joe Gorder said.
In addition, Joe Gorder lost his maternal grandfather, the man he was named for, who died immediately after suffering a heart attack. “I never met him, but would have liked to very much,” Mr. Gorder said. “He was young and fit, but this was the 1950s and, at this time, heart attacks most assuredly resulted in death.”
Evie Winkler, carried by her parents and accompanied by other members of their loving family, appeared on stage with Dr. Henrich at the Gala’s conclusion. It was a fitting end to a Gala dedicated to community support for heart disease research to help people throughout life.
Main gala video:
Special video A:
Special video B: