On and Off the Heart Bypass Machine (#CHDAware)

Update #3: Charlotte was put on the heart bypass machine and the repair began around 11:20 (CT). The APN just left us with this update–angioplasty has been performed on the RPA (right pulmonary artery) to alleviate the constricted blood flow. The conduit has been replaced to address the stenosis there. Dr. Backer is now performing an echo to check the heart and valve function and then will ease her off the bypass machine and let her heart take over again.  (Or he’ll take her off bypass and then do the echo). At this point, we think that they are leaving the valve–at last check it was competent so there was no need to replace it.

Next, Dr. Backer will “dry” the area and watch. And watch. And watch. Basically, he’ll watch for up to two hours to make sure there is no bleeding and, I think, that the valve truly is  competent now that it has blood flow at full volume and velocity.

So far, thank goodness, it’s been a textbook day, no complications and no arrhythmias.

We’re appreciating all of your texts, calls, emails and FB messages. Please continue to forgive us if we don’t respond super quickly.

It’s Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, so I’ll leave you with a few important CGD facts:

  • CHDs are the most common birth defects. CHDs occur in almost 1% of births
  • Approximately 25% of children born with a CHD will need heart surgery or other interventions to survive.
  • Most causes of CHDs are unknown. Only 15-20% of all CHDs are related to known genetic conditions.
  • In 2009, the hospital cost for roughly 27,000 hospital stays for children treated primarily for CHDs in the U.S. was nearly $1.5 billion. In the same year, hospital cost for roughly 12,000 hospital stays of adults treated primarily for CHD was at least $280 million.

You can help. Support CHD research. By supporting CHD research and Lurie Children’s, you’re supporting Charlotte!

9:17 (#CHDAware)

Update #2: The APN just updated us. Anesthesia got Charlotte all settled in and Dr. Backer made the incision at 9:17 a.m. (CT). Now he’ll excise 8 years of scar tissue before he gets her on the heart-lung machine and begins the wait.

Stay tuned…

Ready, Set, Wait….

When our phone rings at 1:22 in the morning, we answer it. Largely because Philippe’s mom is not doing well.  This morning it was a call from the CCU (Cardiac Care Unit) telling us that Dr. Backer, Charlotte’s surgeon, had to postpone the surgery until tomorrow (Wednesday) because an emergency had come up.

I listened, took mental notes, and hung up. Philippe asked me three times if I was sure of what I heard and if I was sure that it really was the CCU. I thought, “Because a prank call at 1:22 in the morning would be so specific as to cancel your daughter’s heart surgery?!”  But, I pulled the number up on caller ID and dialed it. Maybe the night nurse thought I was nuts, I don’t know. She found the gentleman who called me and he confirmed that I had heard correctly.

We rolled over and went back to sleep. I drifted off doing a mental inventory the fridge to plan dinner and realizing that I could pick my brother up from the airport. (We found out he was coming a day or two ago.)

At 7:30 a.m. Charlotte padded into the room and said, “Mommy, what happened?”  I asked her to crawl into bed with me (Philippe had left for work) and I told her. Her immediate reaction was to whimper and crumble. Poor sweetie, such a big change of plans. Once I got her attention, I told her that we could have a real vacation day with no worries or concerns or pain. AND, she got to have a real visit with her uncle. And, by the way, was she ready for breakfast.

I also told her that in 2007 we had taken her to the hospital, waited for several hours (without breakfast or lunch) and then got sent home . That surgery went swimmingly, I told her. So this delay seemed right to me.

We had a great visit with my brother, who now really needs to learn to play Blokus. Everyone is asleep now and getting rested to try again tomorrow.

Our hearts go out to the family whose emergency delayed Charlotte’s repair. We don’t know know who they are, but we know we have something in common.

Side note:

Because this is Heart Defect Awareness Week, Saving tiny Hearts Society will have an ‘About Us’ table along with our ‘Make A Valentine For Kids in the Hospital’ Station at Lurie Children’s tomorrow in the cafeteria around 10:30/11. Dr. Wax plans to come and do magic tricks. This event is a great way to meet families, see doctors and nurses and should end in the early afternoon.

Raising Awareness and Fighting Congenital Heart Defects

Cropped Heart

Charlotte’s Mended Heart (10/25/2013) photo credit: Dr. Jeffrey Gossett

(Full disclosure: This is a re-post of last year’s Congenital Heart Defect Awareness post except when noted by **)

In January 2005, our world was rocked and we thought it might come to an end. That was when Dr. Rudy Sabbagha informed us that our unborn child had a congenital heart defect. He was pretty sure that the specific defect was tetralogy of Fallot (*That’s what Shawn White was born with*). As my high school friend’s daughter, then 13-years-old, had survived a one-time repair for that defect and was thriving, I was relieved.  We later learned that the defect was Truncus Arteriosus, a far less common heart defect.  We also learned that only 50% of babies are diagnosed in utero with TA, so we felt lucky, in an odd way.

Our first online searches for support and information were unsuccessful.  Eventually I gave up looking. I started this blog, putting our emails online at first and then updating as we went for prenatal visits, when Charlotte was born, and throughout her surgery.

And then people began finding me and Charlotte. The first time a family posted a comment about TA, I got chills. Over the years we’ve collected about a dozen comments from parents who have found comfort in Charlotte’s story. Some of them have their own blogs and I try to keep up. Some of them stopped writing their blogs, and I feared the worst.

Today I want to highlight two people we have met through this blog, people whose CHD stories have changed my outlook:

Francie Paul gave birth to a healthy baby boy in August 2005. Or so she and her husband Brian thought. A few hours later, Joshua began turning gray, his oxygen levels plummeted, and he was rushed to Children’s Memorial Hospital.  The doctors determined that he suffered from severe complex congenital heart disease, which is a combination of several CHDs, and at four-days old, Joshua had open heart surgery. He had another surgery at about three months, and another near his third birthday.

Francie and Brian found themselves shaken and changed. They could have retreated to their home and become insular, handling Joshua’s medical issues privately. But they did not. Instead, they asked the doctors, “What can we do for other children with CHD?” They were told that the greatest need was research funding. So they began raising funds and in 2007 founded the Saving tiny Hearts Society.  Each year, Saving tiny Hearts donates its funds to a particular research project that is chosen by the medical professionals who received the previous years funds. In that way, the medical researchers choose the most important and promising research, and the philanthropists do what they do best, raise awareness and funds.

Francie somehow found our blog and called me. She has been not only a shining example, but a steadfast friend, touching base when she knows Charlotte has a surgery or procedure. She’s a pretty intense mom and person, and I admire her tenacity and drive.

As Brian notes in the Parade interview linked below, very few 35-year-olds have severe complex congenital heart disease, and very few 45-year-olds have Truncus Arteriosus.  We don’t know what the future holds for our children. We do know that there is a chance that either Charlotte or Joshua might need a heart transplant in their twenties or thirties. (I don’t like to think about that and don’t talk or write about it very often. I keep faith in the fact that her heart suffered no damage prior to surgery and we’ve had no complications between surgery. Joshua has been similarly healthy, thank goodness.) Brian and Francie have decided to aid the future by funding promising research and I applaud them.

Jessica Renshaw Hargis: Jessica is a young woman in her mid-twenties who was born with Truncus Arteriosus. Like Joshua, she was born seemingly healthy and was rushed to the hospital when she turned blue. She had her first repair at three weeks old and her second at three years old. After that she had few complications that I know about. Jessica found us when she was about 23-years-old. She was getting ready for her third repair (a valve and conduit replacement, or what we call a “tune up”) and was just beginning to wrap her head around managing her own health care. She was, in fact, having elective surgery so that she could do it while still well-insured.  Jessica had some post-surgical complications after that surgery (in 2009), but is largely doing very well. We had the pleasure to meet her in August 2009 and it warmed my heart to see Charlotte talking to a grown woman who shares her experience. While Charlotte and Jessica are as different as can be, they share something that we can never share–the understanding of what it is to live with a mended heart. We treasure our relationship with Jessica and her mother, and the friendship they reached out to give us.

*We are never not  aware of congenital heart defects at our house, though Charlotte says that she sees her scar and it feels more like a birthmark to her.  When Charlotte complained of reflux last night and told me she had sharp pains in her chest, my first thought was “Well, we haven’t had a heart-related emergency room trip yet. I guess tonight’s the night.”  Fifteen minutes later she was sound asleep. Today she told me that she knew it was reflux and that I shouldn’t worry about her heart unless she tells me to worry.  She, in fact, has the biggest, most generous heart I know.*

*Please consider linking to Saving tiny Hearts Society and making a donation in honor of the 2 to 3 out of every 1000 children born with a broken heart. Today they live and thrive because of research that groups like StHS helps fund*

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