At The HEARTest Yard, we’re here to support families navigating the challenges of parenting children with congenital heart disease. We offer a range of no-cost services, including in-home nursing care, therapy and more, that are tailored to your needs. Our mission is to improve survival rates, enhance life expectancy and provide compassionate support throughout your journey. We’re proud of our mission and impact thus far, but there is still work to be done.
*HLHS means Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
Established in 2013, The HEARTest Yard is the first and only family support and service program for pediatric cardiovascular patients and their families in the Carolinas.
To the program’s mission
9 in 1,000 Babies in the U.S. are born with a congenital heart defect (CHD)
1 Million Children living with a CHD in the U.S.
130 Babies per year in Mecklenburg County born with a CHD
1.4 Million Adults living with a CHD in the U.S.
Families who have received support from The HEARTest Yard have shared heartwarming testimonials, expressing deep gratitude for the assistance and compassionate care they received. Their stories serve as powerful reminders of the life-changing impact we have on those affected by congenital heart diseases; their stories inspire us to keep pushing forward with our mission. Hear from some of our heart families below.
“We run [in the HEARTest Yard + Showmars 5K] for Emmett. Born in September 2017 with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Levine Children’s Hospital and the HEARTest Yard have been there since day one to guide and support her throughout this journey. We cherish the community the HEARTest Yard has built.”
“We run [in the HEARTest Yard + Showmars 5k] for Hank, our nearly five-year-old son, who was diagnosed shortly after birth with Tetralogy of Fallot. We run because we expect nothing but endless opportunities for him, and do not allow him to be defined by his diagnosis. We run because the initiatives funded by The HEARTest Yard Foundation are truly life-changing for Hank and other children with congenital heart defects. The HEARTest Yard program was vital in allowing us the confidence to care for Hank appropriately at home. The HEARTest Yard has brought awareness of CHD to our community, and it gives a platform for our friends and family to support our efforts to improve the quality of Hank’s life and for those like him with CHD. We run because we are forever grateful to this foundation for giving Hank the opportunity to thrive.”
“Our son, Brantley Douglas Register, was born on Feb. 3, 2014, with an undiagnosed condition known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Shortly after Brantley was born, his hands and feet started turning blue. The nurses quickly checked his pulse oximetry and realized immediately that there was an issue as his readings was dangerously low. After being diagnosed with HLHS, he was transferred to Levine Children’s Hospital that evening. Less than 24 hours after being born, Brantley received lifesaving open-heart surgery. Before going home for the first time, Brantley spent a total of 63 days in the CVICU and 74 days total at Levine Children’s Hospital.
“During our stay, we met Greg and Kara Olsen and their son TJ who also has HLHS. Greg and Kara shared their journey with TJ’s special heart, provided lots of support and encouragement, as well as told us about their foundation The HEARTest Yard. We found out that The HEARTest Yard provides in-home nursing care for children like Brantley during the time between their first and second heart surgeries, typically six months. The time between the first and second surgeries is critical, and these children basically live in a bubble. It is crucial to their survival that they not develop any illness, that their pulse ox and weight are checked daily and that they follow a strict feeding protocol. The HEARTest Yard provides nurses who are trained on how to take care of patients with HLHS, who can watch for the warning signs that something is wrong, and basically provide a peace of mind for parents of these children. Many times, private insurance will not approve in-home nursing care and most families are unable to afford the cost on their own. This was one of the reasons Greg and Kara told us that they founded The HEARTest Yard.
“Brantley was a recipient of in-home nursing care through The HEARTest Yard. As parents of a child with a congenital heart defect that has the highest mortality rate, we were relieved, ecstatic and overwhelmed with gratitude that such a foundation exists to help families like us. When we went to the hospital to have Brantley, we thought we were having a normal baby. One can only imagine the state of shock that we were in when we found out about Brantley’s special heart. So many emotions run through your head when faced with a situation like we were in. What do we do? What will happen next? Will he be OK? What will we need to do to take care of him? How will we be able to afford to take care of him? Will one of us need to quit our jobs? The answer to our questions was basically The HEARTest Yard.
“In 2014 and 2017, Brantley returned to Levine Children’s Hospital for his second and third heart surgeries. We absolutely feel that the nursing care that Brantley received during the first and second surgeries helped provide the best possible outcome that we could imagine. Without the nursing care provided by the HEARTest Yard, we feel that Brantley would not be the thriving, healthy child that he is today!”
“The HEARTest Yard has been a part of our family’s heart journey since the day of diagnosis. At Nora’s 20-week anatomy scan, we learned she would be born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a condition we had never heard of before. Searching the internet for information, we came across the Olsens’ story and their foundation to support heart families like us. Seeing they had a 5K just a few weeks later, we quickly signed up. The 5K was our introduction to the heart community and the positivity of the day was a bright spot for us while we processed this life changing news.
“When Nora arrived that fall, she spent several months in the hospital recovering from two open heart surgeries and some significant complications. We came home with nursing support provided by the HEARTest Yard, allowing us to return to work with peace of mind about Nora’s care.
“Our family and friends returned to the 5K the following May, this time with Nora in tow, and celebrated everything that she had overcome the previous year. Nora has a long journey ahead, but she is now 18 months old, walking, talking and keeping up with her older sister thanks in part to the support we received from Levine and The HEARTest Yard.”
“We are the Harveys – Evan and Ashley, our daughter Emery (4) and our heart warrior, Asher (2). We are natives to North Carolina and currently live just north of Charlotte.”
“We didn’t know much about Levine Children’s Hospital until we received Asher’s diagnosis. We went to the OB/GYN for our routine anatomy scan at 22 weeks, which yielded “atypical results” on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. I will never know how many calls were made and schedules were rearranged in the short time between 9am and noon for us to get in for a fetal echocardiogram with LCH, but we will forever be grateful for the massive work that made it happen. The back-to-back appointments at LCH took us to the end of the longest day of our lives and verified the results: our baby has tricuspid atresia with transposition of the great arteries, atrial septal defect and hypoplastic right heart syndrome. Dr. Rene’ Herlong was the doctor who sat with us in the consult room and walked us through Asher’s plans – I still have the hand-drawn sketches he made for us that diagrammed Asher’s medical future. He told us that Asher’s diagnosis requires a 3-step palliative heart surgery schedule that will allow Asher to live his best life with the heart he was given. His kindness and genuine empathy for our journey was the light we held onto that day and the months leading up to Asher’s birth.”
“The first few months after Asher was born were really trying for our family – everyone was navigating big fears while experiencing immense joys and learning to live in every moment, taking the time to savor the small things that had taken on such great meaning since Asher’s diagnosis. We had the greatest blessing of being beneficiaries of The HEARTest Yard’s at-home nursing program during the dangerous period between the Norwood and Glenn procedures. Our terror at not being able to identify what was “normal” versus what was a red flag was real. Without the support of the staff who came by and helped us through those months, we know we could have made it to the 2nd surgery but it would have come at great emotional and mental costs.”
“Asher has been to The HEARTest Yard Congenital Heart Center once and we could not have asked for a more welcoming place to examine Asher’s neurodevelopmental skills.”
“We want the entire Olsen family to know that we will always shout from the rooftops about the compassion of The HEARTest Yard – they are true heroes to share their personal journey with the world. We feel like we joined a terrible club when we found out about Asher’s CHD, but the community and the heart of this organization have provided support when we have needed it most. We are one of so many families that have found comfort in their story and are indebted to them for the spotlight they are shining on congenital heart defects.”
The family service program is used by many families by providing a variety of services that include in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy among other benefits.
If you are interested in learning more about The HEARTest Yard In-Home Nursing Care Program, please contact Kari Plant, Director of Pediatric Cardiac Neurodevelopment Program at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital.
Since opening our doors on Dec. 7, 2020, our clinic has been a beacon of hope for families facing congenital heart disease. With our state-of-the-art, 25,000-square-foot facility, we’ve created a welcoming space where patients and their loved ones can find comfort and support. Our mission to make a difference is reflected in our growing patient count, which now stands at more than 25,000 and continues to climb.
Nestled on the fifth floor of the Levine Children’s Hospital and the Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute, we are at the heart of compassionate care. What truly sets us apart are the remarkable impact numbers we’ve achieved over the years. Since 2013, we’ve proudly donated $4.3 million to the program at Levine Children’s Hospital, ensuring that every dollar goes towards advancing our mission. In fact, an impressive 95% of our revenue directly supports our programs and initiatives, emphasizing our commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of those we serve.
In 2022, the HEARTest Yard expanded its reach to support more heart families in South Carolina with its partnership with MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital in Charleston, SC. Visit our News page to read more.
Crawford is a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner. She specializes in cardiac neurodevelopment and single ventricle outpatient care. She also has experience with pulmonary hypertension and mild dysautonomia.
She is an advanced practice provider (APP) for the Atrium Health Pediatric Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program, the Levine Children’s Hospital HEARTest Yard Congenital Heart Center and CHAMP: Complex Congenital Heart At-Home Monitoring Program.
Crawford was recognized by the North Carolina Great 100 Nurses.
She chose pediatric cardiology due to her own experiences and the cardiac surgery she underwent as a teenager. She has had the opportunity to work in an ICU setting, step-down and outpatient. She enjoys pediatric cardiology and caring for patients and their families.
Crawford received her master’s degree in nursing at the University of Maryland.
She has participated in the National Pediatric Cardiology Quality Initiative Collaborative, the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcomes Collaborative and the Pediatric Acute Care Cardiology Collaborative.
Crawford is married with 2 stepchildren and 3 dogs. They love to spend time together outdoors floating in their pool.
Dr. Maxey is board certified in cardiothoracic surgery with a focus on treating congenital heart defects in people of all ages, especially newborn babies. He specializes in surgical repair of congenital heart defects, palliation of single ventricle heart disease, mechanical support and heart transplants.
Dr. Maxey serves as the interim chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute. He was named an Atrium Health Physician of the Quarter and has been named a Top Doctor by Charlotte magazine for multiple years.
He became fascinated with cardiovascular disease in college while studying under a professor who was a heart transplant recipient. Dr. Maxey has a passion for teaching others and developing a team approach to providing optimal patient care.
Dr. Maxey received his medical degree at Eastern Virginia Medical School. He completed a residency at the University of South Florida and a fellowship at Emory University.
He is married and the father of 2 sons. A self-proclaimed foodie, in his free time he enjoys exercising, gardening and traveling with his wife, who loves to cook.
Dr. Wallis is board certified in general pediatrics and pediatric cardiology. He specializes in pediatric heart failure and transplant, congenital heart disease and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Dr. Wallis serves as medical director of the Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant Program and vice chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital.
He has been recognized as a Charlotte Magazine Top Doctor for multiple years and is amazed at the resiliency of children facing challenging diagnoses. Dr. Wallis has written multiple papers on the subject of congenital heart disease and pediatric heart failure in national and international journals.
Dr. Wallis received his medical degree at Universidad Central de Venezuela and completed his residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch. He then completed his fellowship at the University of Florida.