Carolina Panthers

As Panthers travel, Olsen at son’s bedside following surgery

While the Panthers are in Pittsburgh on Thursday night for their final exhibition, tight end Greg Olsen will be at Levine Children’s Hospital watching over his son’s recovery from open-heart surgery this week.

T.J. Olsen, born in 2012 with a congenital heart defect, is recovering from Monday’s four-hour surgery, the last of three scheduled procedures for the tight end’s son.

If T.J. continues to progress well, Olsen will rejoin the team next week and play in the season opener Sept. 7 at Tampa Bay.

“A lot depends on his recovery status,” Olsen said Wednesday in a text message. “But he’s doing well now, so hope that continues.”

“So far so good,” Olsen added. “It’s just a long recovery. We knew that going in.”

T.J. was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a complex heart defect in which the left side of the heart is underdeveloped. There is no cure for the condition, but the survival rate is about 75 percent.

T.J.’s first surgery came two days after he was born, and he had a second procedure last summer. On Monday T.J. underwent the Fontan procedure, an operation that connects the veins bringing the blood back from the body directly into the lung arteries.

The surgeon who performed the procedure said T.J. is doing well.

“He was off the ventilator quickly on the first day after surgery,” said Dr. Benjamin Peeler, Levine’s chief of pediatric and adult congenital heart surgery. “He's made some good progress.”

Peeler said T.J. experienced heart rhythm issues that doctors treated with medicine and a temporary pacemaker, which Peeler said is standard in such operations.

Peelers said most children return home after two weeks following the Fontan procedure.

In the meantime, Olsen and his wife, Kara, are spending long days at the hospital with both sets of T.J.'s grandparents.

“He's doing well,” Olsen said. “Some ups and downs, but mostly ups. ... He’s right on track.”