Kansas City Pediatric Cardiology

Story by Lynne Hayes

Where the Smallest Hearts Receive Compassionate Expert Care

If there was a contest for the most kid-friendly guy in the world, you might imagine that Santa would rank number one. If that’s so, then you haven’t met “Dr. Bill.”

He may not be the man in the red suit, but the gifts that he and his expert team deliver to kids and their families are the most precious of all – hope and health.

Dr. Bill (full name William B. Drake III, MD) is the founder of Kansas City Pediatric Cardiology, a two-office practice that specializes in diagnosing and treating heart problems from birth through young adulthood.

After speaking with Dr. Bill, you come away grateful your family has never needed him but feel infinitely more grateful that he and his cardiology team, which includes Karina Carlson, MD and Tara Swanson, MD are just a phone call away for worried families of kids experiencing heart issues.

“Typically, if a patient is 16 or younger, they will be sent to us,” explained Dr. Bill. “Compared to an adult-focused cardiologist, we’re going to be better at understanding babies to young adult physiology, and we’ll do a better job at working through causes for this age group. It’s a very specialized niche.”

In fact, pediatric cardiology is so specialized that Kansas City Pediatric Cardiology is actually the only private practice of its kind in our area, with locations in Overland Park and also in Briarcliff in the Northland. There are other pediatric cardiologists in town, but the rest work within area hospital systems.

“Yes, we are the only private practice here. Children’s Mercy has a pediatric cardiology clinic, and they do an excellent job,” Dr. Bill noted. “We have staff privileges there and often utilize their cardiac catheterization lab and cardiac surgical services for our young patients.”

“We also have connections with the pediatric units at HCA and Saint Luke’s and regularly attend to their NICU babies,” he added, “not to mention extensive relationships with cardiac specialists across the country including Mayo and Houston. Essentially, we can give our patients access to the best care both in and out of town, as needed.”

Accessibility and Responsiveness Second-to-None

One can only imagine the anxiety parents face when their baby or child is experiencing heart-related issues.  In light of that, Dr. Bill says his private practice offers another critical benefit – responsiveness when it comes to appointments.

“Our number one priority is being completely accessible to our patients. If a parent is worried, they shouldn’t have to wait for weeks to have their child be seen,” he noted. “Pediatricians know that if there’s a concern that needs immediate attention, we will see their patients that afternoon in our clinic. We can always find a way to squeeze someone in. Our whole staff is committed to that philosophy.”

Dr. Carlson agrees. “We know that when parents hear that their child may have a heart problem, they need answers quickly. We prioritize the patient’s and their family’s needs from the scheduling process through the clinic experience, with the aim of being easily reachable for appointments and questions.”

A Unique Understanding of Children’s Heart Issues

As “first line consultants” for pediatric cardiology cases, the practice sees what Dr. Bill describes as three broad categories of patients. This includes children with congenital heart defects; kids who’ve been told they have heart murmurs (which are often benign); and kids and teens who experience symptoms such as fainting, shortness of breath, and palpitations.

“In so many cases, we’re able to evaluate, educate, and reassure parents that a condition is more innocent and treatable than they imagined – especially those that have read too many scary articles on the internet,” he said. “Making happy parents is a favorite part of our job.”

Additionally, the team conducts numerous sports screenings each year with the goal of “getting as many kids as possibe safely participating in sports activities.”

A fascinating sidenote to the heart issues typically faced by children: they are very different than the issues faced by adults, and one of the most common causes of the fainting and dizziness some kids experience is being underhydrated.

“Kids today essentially grow up in climate-controlled boxes, and many spend their days being sedentary on the couch or in front of a computer,” explained Dr. Bill. “If you’re not working up a sweat or being active, you forget to drink water.”

He added that this is when chronic underhydration can set in.

“The set point for hydration gets reduced in a child’s body and then blood volume gets reduced and adrenaline levels go up to compensate. Suddenly exertion through sports causes all kinds of side effects like palpitations and fainting which then leads to stress and anxiety.”

Expert Hands That Are Also Warm and Welcoming

When it comes to a full-service practice, Kansas City Pediatric Cardiology is a superb option. Families find the atmosphere both highly professional and warm and welcoming.

“Every person in our practice loves children, and that is evident from the minute someone walks through the door,” said Dr. Carlson. “In keeping the patient at the center of everything we do, our team members are always eager to jump in and help if a child is scared or upset during their appointment.  We all have the same goal of providing the very best care to children and their families, so we all do whatever it takes to help each other do that.”

Regarding the practice’s design, Dr. Bill shared that the goal was to make it family-friendly, but not Disneyland.

“We’ve been very intentional about the ambiance here,” said Dr. Bill. “The families we see are typically very stressed and concerned when they walk through our doors. It was important to create an atmosphere that was more of a welcoming living room with a sense of calm and peace.”

Most important for families to understand is that there is very little waiting done in the practice’s waiting area, typically just 5 to 10 minutes.

“We want people to know that they are always a priority. We can do most of the testing right here and provide families with the answers they desperately need before they leave our office. Giving families insight and understanding and calming their worries – I honestly can’t think of a better gift to give, and we’re fortunate to give that every day.” Sounds like Santa would be pretty proud of Dr. Bill and his team.