Fundraisers such as those that the American Heart Association organizes have a benefit of increased knowledge and awareness that as a Health teacher I obviously believe to be valuable.
But for me, this issue also hits a lot closer to home.
My son, Kyle, was born on a lucky day – St. Patrick's Day of 2009 at Hinsdale Hospital in Illinois.
I believe that despite all Kyle has gone through in his short life, good luck has truly followed him since his birth.
You see, Kyle is a happy and tough little 3 year old who also has a very special heart!
Before birth, at an ultrasound, Kyle was diagnosed with a heart defect called Double Outlet Right Ventricle (DORV). He also had a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). His aorta and pulmonary arteries did not form in the correct place. Although it was very difficult to find out about his heart condition, I am thankful that I found out when I did, to gain understanding of the defect, find excellent doctors for him, and to become as mentally prepared as I could.
When Kyle was born he was a healthy 8 pounds 4 ounces, so my hopes were high that he would not require too much immediate medical attention. Unfortunately, when his cardiologist examined him shortly after his birth, it was apparent that Kyle was not receiving enough oxygen. I got to hold my son for just a few minutes, and then Kyle took his first ambulance ride to Christ Medical Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois. He spent his first 10 days of life there and had a procedure called a balloon atrial septostomy to allow more oxygen uptake. He was able to come home without additional oxygen support, and he was eating well.
Kyle was home for three weeks before he took his second ambulance ride to Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn after a routine visit to the cardiologist. This was due to oxygen levels in the 60th percentile. (Normal functioning hearts utilize 98-99% of the oxygen taken in to the body. Kyle’s number was dropping to dangerous levels.) The team of doctors there, led by Dr. Ilbawi, performed a BT shunt on him to increase his oxygen levels. Being as “tough” as he is, Kyle was only in recovery for three days.
At six months, Kyle had a planned open heart surgery called the Glenn procedure, which attached his superior vena cava to his pulmonary artery. Although it was scary as a parent to know he was going through open heart surgery again, everything went very well, and he was discharged after only five days. He was on daily medication and saw his cardiologist once every 3 months. Kyle's oxygen levels were in the low 80's.
In April of 2010, Kyle received the last of the 3-staged surgeries called the Fontan procedure; he was 2 years old.
Kyle’s oxygen levels are now 90% and above, and besides taking daily medication and having the scars to prove his surgeries, he’s is an extremely happy, active, "healthy" toddler. All he wants to do is keep up with his 5 year old sister, Alayna!
He may have limitations with his single ventricle heart as he grows, but I am confident that Kyle will lead a "normal" life full of happiness. Although I know there may be ups and downs in the future, I consider myself, my family, and Kyle very lucky. St. Patrick's Day is an appropriate birthday for Kyle!
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