Sunday, February 10, 2008

7 For 7: 7 CHD Stories

Today's 7 For 7, features just a few of the stories that have been shared with me by my newfound CHD friends, through this blog, or online. You will not stand up from reading this post without your heart feeling lighter!

Cynthia's Story. I am a 60 year old survivor of Tetralogy of Fallot. I had the Blalock-Taussig Shunt when I was 3 and a total correction at 15 years. In 2004, I had to have my pulmonary valve replaced. In addition, an aneurysm had formed in the teflon that was used to expand the pulmonary artery during the total correction. This was also repaired in 2004.

Throughout my life, I've always worked to overcome shortness of breath, becoming tired, and all of the other symptoms that go along with this defect. I realize that I push myself further than anyone else pushes me.

I have discovered an organization, the Adult Congential Heart Association, that I would like to share with you. People like me who have lived longer than anyone expected them to live can present a problem to doctors. We're sort of leading the way for the children who are just being born with CHD. By the time some of these children reach my age, I hope that the things that are learned now in managing my health and the health of other adults will be standard procedure for the management of their health.

Parents, prayers are answered every day. As you all have indicated, your children are already a blessing and, in many ways, are blessed. I would not have lived if Dr. Blalock and Mr. Vivian Thomas had not worked diligently for years to develop the surgery that saved my life. Others are working equally as hard to find ways to save the lives of children born today and tomorrow. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you and all of the children as you move through life.

Christy H's Story. At 16 weeks pregnant we learned through an ultrasound that our daughter had lung issues. At 23 weeks, we were shocked and devastated to learn of her heart defects. Between the two, she was given a 5% chance of survival. Despite the odds, my daughter, Harlie, was born on September 25, 2006.

Harlie has a CHD called Congenitally Corrected TGA and three other heart defects that complicated matters and forced the surgeon to do a three operation “repair” to re-plumb her circulation. I have been told that her heart will last her about 30+ years and that after that we will be looking at a transplant.

In addition to her heart defects, Harlie also has Goldenhar Syndrome (an asymmetrical craniofacial syndrome). She has an underdeveloped jaw and missing bones, low forward set ears, with a dysmorphic left ear and no canal, many vertebral anomalies, left eye anomalies, misshapen skull, anoperineal fistula, and a lung malformation that required the removal of most of her right lung.

Harlie is now 16 months old and has just started to crawl. She has a 20-word vocabulary in sign language. She breathes through a tube in her throat, called a trach. She eats through a tube that was surgically placed in her stomach. She’s had seven surgeries and has spent over four months in hospitals and she’s just getting started.

Despite all of this, Harlie is amazing! She’s smart and happy and we think that she’s quite cute. She has such an agreeable personality and just seems to go with the flow, whether she’s at home or in the hospital. We are very thankful that we have her.

Harlie's heart, lung, airway and feeding issues are pretty overwhelming. But I try to focus on what’s good and be thankful for those things. I try very hard not to think too much about her heart or her lungs. I see children running and playing everyday and wonder if Harlie will be able to do that. I try very hard not to think about what it will be like when she realizes that she looks different. Or the first time she comes home crying because someone made fun of her. We are a very vain society, and that will make parenting her much more challenging.

But worrying about all that is a waste of energy – energy I need to just get through each day. I do my best. I take very good care of her. I make all the necessary appointments with her 14+ doctors, I got numerous opinions until I found the right doctors with the right plans for her. I give her all her medications as prescribed. I’ve learned CPR and she wears an oxygen and heart rate monitor when she sleeps. But, in the end, despite all my efforts, I cannot control how her heart functions. I just hope that it beats like it’s supposed to and that it doesn’t stop. I hope that she never gets a plug in her trach that blocks her ability to breathe. I hope that she never pulls the trach out (again! – yes that was a close call). I hope I never have to call 911 again. I hope that she will know that her care was never too much for me and that she is worth whatever I have to do to keep her safe and sound. I hope that I can continue to be the strong mother I need to be for her. And I hope that she will know that she has made me the happiest mom on the planet.

Sharon's Story. Saving the life of infants us everyday work for Dr. Karen S. Rhueban, a Pediatric Cardiologist at University of Virginia Hospital. She was interrupted from an interview to perform an emergency cardiac catheturization on a newborn 4 1/2 pound twin whose blue-tinged skin indicated her blood was not circulating properly to receive oxygen.

In the cardiac catheturization laboratory, Dr. Rheuban inserted a plastic tube in the baby's leg and laced it through blood vessels to the heart to record circulation of the blood and make an accurate cardiac diagnosis. The end of the tubing was blown into a nickel-sized balloon and passed through a hole in the upper chamber of the baby's heart to allow blood to circulate. Known as a balloon atrial septostomy, this procedure saved her life. The baby had to have open-heart surgery at 9 months old in order to survive.

Today, Sharon is 23, and a marine wife. She leads a normal life with a daughter of her own, who has a clean bill of health. Two adults have told me in the last week that they had never met any one else with CHD. Sharon is one of them!

Karen's Story. As I lay on the exam table and the ultra sound tech squeezes some warm gel on my expanding belly, I look over at my two daughters who are 4 and 7 and squeeze my husband’s hand. We are all eager to find out the sex of our newest addition to the family. With two girls already, we were eager to find out if Daddy will get a little boy. The baby is uncooperative. The tech is unable to tell the sex. Our excitement elevates. The tech steps out to get the doctor. Soon the doctor comes back. He looks at the screen for a long time. I start to get a sick feeling in my stomach. I squeeze my husband’s hand harder. The sweat is building between our tightly gripped hands. His panic is beginning to flow to me threw his hand as though our bodies were connected. The doctor speaks…. “This is not good. This is bad.” I truly feel like I am going to faint. I look over at my girls who have started to look at a Dr Seuss book and have forgotten about what we are there for. I think to myself that they understand “This is bad.” Get them out of here. I don’t want them to see me cry. Oh my God! Oh my God! The tech takes my daughters out of the room to the waiting room. The doctor tells us that the baby is missing part of its heart. Missing half it’s heart! What does this mean? Is the baby going to be able to live?

We were sitting in the doctor’s office and the cardiologist began explaining everything. Our baby has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. To this day, I don’t remember that doctor giving us much, if any, hope. But I don’t remember much from that conversation. The one thing I do remember was we were told to think about aborting the baby. After many tears and prayers we decided to continue with the pregnancy and do everything we could for our baby.

Jameson was born on October 13, 2006. When she was four (4) days old, she had her first open heart surgery. The next couple of months were extremely difficult. Jameson was stable but, by no means, was she a healthy new born. She struggled to eat and thrive. She had her second open-heart surgery at 4 1/2 months. The recovery was much quicker this time. The best part was she was crying, crying because she was hungry and wanted to eat! Her third, and hopefully final surgery will be in April.

Every month Jameson has grown stronger. She is one now and is such a wonderful baby. She sometimes gets winded when she is crawling or moving around but other than that, the scar that is hidden under her shirt is the only proof of what this little girl has been through.

Parents deserve to believe their child has a chance. Had we followed the doctor’s advice we would not have our beautiful “Little Champion.”

Misty's Story. My CHD story begins on New Year’s Day, 2005 when I found out I was pregnant with my 3rd child. My pregnancy was pretty normal. All of my ultrasounds were fine and there was no cause for concern, so we thought. Sydney was born on August 24, 2005. Her APGAR scores were 9 and 9. Everything looked good until the pediatrician came in and checked her out and heard a murmur that was “slightly louder than what we like to hear” and called in a pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Albrecht.

At 4:30 pm that afternoon, Dr. Albrecht came into my room with a nurse. I was there by myself taking a nap and waiting for my newest little girl to be able to come to my room and get to hold her. I’ll never forget what he said. “Your daughter has a problem with one of the valves in her heart and I have called a transport team from UVA Medical Center to come and pick her up and transport her there. She will have surgery tomorrow morning.” Sydney has Aortic Stenosis (AS). Dr. Albrecht advised me that her Aortic Valve was a bi-cuspid, instead of a tri-cuspid, valve and was barely functioning and letting very little blood out of the valve to the Aorta. After he went over everything, he sent the nurse to bring Sydney to my room so I could say my “hello’s and goodbye’s”. My husband called his parents to go pick up our other 2 children and bring them to the hospital to meet their new little sister before they took her an hour away to prepare her for the surgery the following morning.

The next morning my husband called to let me know that they were getting ready to take her back and that she had so many tubes and wires coming out of her that the only place that you could touch her was on her head. At that point, he started to break down, again, and I began falling apart, again. Two hours into her procedure, we received the news that everything went well, she had had two blood transfusions, and she was going to be ok.

When I was finally released from the hospital and able to go see my daughter two days after her birth, I found her in her little bed with an intubation tube and many tubes and wires attached to her. Since that day was my birthday, Steve’s parents brought our two older children up to the hospital to see their sister. I didn’t want them to see her with all of the tubes and wires, but someone brought them back before I could say anything. What was amazing was that when she heard them start talking, her heart rate stabilized, her respiratory rate normalized and her blood pressure returned to a normal state. It was incredible.

Today my daughter looks like a normal 23 month old, but she is not a normal little girl. There are things that she will have to go through that ‘normal kids’ won’t have to do. Besides the future surgery(ies) to open and eventually replace her aortic valve, she won’t be able to do some sports that she may want to do and she will, most likely, have to take medicine every day of her life. Her heart will never be normal.

Joshua's Story. Joshua is an active 4 year old. He was born in June of 2003 with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare and fatal defect, unless treated. Basically, he was missing his left ventricle and his aorta was very narrow. Parents of children with this defect are given three options: they can take their child home to die, they can try for a heart transplant in hopes that a heart will become available soon enough, or their child can undergo three surgeries that will reroute the blood so that the child can survive. Jodi and Mark, Joshua's parents, opted for the surgeries.

Joshua developed severe blood infections after his first surgery, but miraculously pulled through, and his parents were able to bring him home almost two months later. His second open-heart surgery took place when he was 5 ½ months old, and he went home five days afterwards. He had his third surgery, the Fontan, when he was three. This surgery was particularly hard on the family as they had had over two more years to learn to love Joshua, and they knew there was a possibility he might not come home. However, Joshua also made it through this surgery with a few post-surgery complications called pleural effusions. Though it kept him in the hospital longer than anticipated, Joshua did fully recover.

We do not know what is in Joshua's future. The doctors cannot "fix" his heart. We are hoping that Joshua will not need any other procedures for a long time. In the meantime, he has fun playing with his brothers and making his parents laugh. Every day with him is a blessing.

Christy D' s Story. My husband were excited when we found out I was pregnant with my second child. Then our world came crumbling down at our 21 week ultrasound; Steve and I were told our little baby girl had a severe and life threatening heart condition. Instead of joy, we were expecting, our hearts were filled with pain, fear and grief. The baby was diagnosed with Tricuspid Valve Atresia (TA)---meaning her tricuspid valve did not form. Without her tricuspid value, her blood was unable to flow into her right ventricle, enabling growth; meaning she has a 3-chambered heart.

Sydney was born on December 4th, 2006 and had surgery 8 days later. Without this surgery, which has its own risks, she would not survive. The recovery was a roller coaster ride. Sydney developed seizures 1-2 days post-op, which is a risk to having open heart surgery. Her O2 sats, heart rates, and blood pressures were all over the place. She had so many tubes and lines in her, that the nurses had run out of places to put them. After many prayers and medical assistance, we got to take Sydney home just 3 weeks later, just in time for Christmas. What a great gift!!!

At 4 months of age, Sydney had her 2nd surgery. Just remembering Sydney going through surgery last time, made us sick with grief. We knew she was in the best hands, but there are never any guarantees when it comes to surgery. Thanks to all the Angels above, the 2nd surgery was a breeze compared to the first surgery. After the surgery, Sydney's life has improved in a dramatic way. At approximately 2 ½ years of age, Sydney will have her 3rd surgery, as long as everything continues to progress as planned.

Sydney, despite her medical problems, amazes me. She is full of love and life. She always has a smile, no matter what is going on. I thank God for her every day, and despite the fact it is hard being a “heart parent”, there is NEVER a day, or a moment, I would change it, if it meant not having Sydney in our lives.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Kim, I've been off the computer all weekend so I've just now read all your posts beginning Feb 7. I've been thinking and praying for you this week.
    I'm in tears at my desk reading your posts.
    *Let me know if there is ever a time I can come babysit (for free) so you can Jason can go out to eat or a movie, or anything you want to do.