Houston attorney Annie Garcia with daughter Ariana
Houston attorney Annie Garcia with daughter Ariana (Courtesy photo)

After her infant daughter needed heart surgery, Annie Garcia, a former big-firm corporate lawyer in Houston, scaled back her practice to launch a nonprofit to provide pediatric cardiac surgeons with 3-D models of their patients’ hearts so they can better prepare for surgery.

Garcia said the nonprofit, OpHeart, will initially raise money to help pay for 3-D models of babies’ hearts to support a study proposed by doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“Half of the surgeries would be with a model and half without. At the end of the day, we will look at different metrics,” Garcia said of the proposed study.

Garcia said the insurance companies do not currently pay for the models, which she says cost $400-$1,000 each.

Garcia said Ariana, her second child, who was born in June 2014, went limp in her husband’s arms six weeks after she was born. They were living in Madrid at the time, and they soon learned after an emergency room visit that Ariana had been born with a critical congenital heart defect.

“It was touch-and-go for two weeks, although ultimately we waited two months for surgery,” she said.

Garcia said her daughter spent two months in the hospital in Madrid, but she’s doing “incredibly well.” considering that she suffered brain damage from a brain seizure.

To show her gratitude to her daughter’s “amazing” surgeon in Madrid, Garcia decided to give him a 3-D model of her daughter’s heart. But after talking to him and other surgeons about the value of a 3-D model to help them prepare for surgery, Garcia decided to research the possibilities.

In January, when Garcia and her family moved back to Houston, she considered taking an in-house position in Houston, but decided instead to do legal work on a contract basis so she could devote time to setting up and running OpHeart as a nonprofit.

“By June it will be set up as a charity,” she said.

After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Garcia practiced for a year at Dewey & LeBoeuf in Houston before working as an associate at Mayer Brown from 2007 through 2011. After that, she had a product design company in Houston and Madrid.