The other night my honey and I were watching a medical documentary-type show. On it was a young married couple who already had their fair share of hills to climb.. the husband was fighting overseas and the young wife was pregnant. She had been without her husband throughout her entire pregnancy, and their unborn baby was very ill… He was suffering from a severe heart condition. Her husband flew home for the birth of their child and to meet with specialists to discuss what would happen to their baby once he was born.. There was a good chance this precious little baby would die… and if not, he would face countless surgeries as he got older without ANY guarantee that he would ever be well… Just weeks after the birth the little baby’s Daddy had to get back on a plane and fly overseas, and Mom was left to face this on her own…It truly broke my heart. What an extremely terrifying thing to have to face… As footage of this little baby full of tubes and hooked up to countless machine played I held back tears… It hits me where I live… I remember the days that my little one was in the NICU… and although for something not near as severe as this little baby, it brought back a LOT of memories… the NICU is a terrifying place to be, and something that is only understood by the parents who have had to spend their days there….
My honey commented on how helpless those parents must feel… I could relate… and then it occurred to me… I said “Why don’t you ask my Mom and Dad, they had to go through something like that with me…”
Please do not misunderstand, I was never as ill as this little boy, nor did I have to have countless surgeries… but I did have to have one, and I was not healthy for the first few years of my life. When I think back to when I had heart surgery I think about the scar I have… I think about the few memories I have of being in the hospital (I was 2 1/2 at the time, so I cannot recall everything but I do remember certain vivid details)… I remember my Uncle Mike rubbing a balloon against his head and sticking it to the wall… I remember my Mom doing “incy wincy spider” with me as a way to get me post post-op… I remember the boy across the way stealing my step stool so I couldn’t get off my bed… But my perspective is very different then my parents I am sure – and I don’t think I ever really gave that the credit it deserves until I watched this show… I never thought of what they were doing and thinking when I was wheeled into the OR, or what they said to each other while I was being operated on… That must have been scary for them… All the while they had 2 other children that they needed to love and care for as well… and jobs to hold down, a home to take care of… That has to be a little overwhelming!
The surgery I had was called a Patent Ductus Arteriosus ligation or a PDA repair. To explain in simple terms, before birth, there is a natural blood vessel between the aorta (the main artery to the body) and the pulmonary artery (the main artery to the lungs) called the ductus arteriosus. This opening usually closes shortly after birth. A PDA occurs when this opening fails to close. Because the function of this vessel is to allow blood to bypass the lungs because the mother is who oxygenates the baby – if this vessel doesn’t close off after birth, excess blood can flow into the lungs causing breathing problems, damage to the lungs, and sometimes death from heart failure.
From my understanding this procedure is not nearly as serious as it used to be. There are medications out now that can encourage the valve to close, and if that isn’t successful a simple surgery can be done to correct this heart defect. It is as simple as a few ‘keyhole’ cuts and microscopically a surgeon inserts a few small tubes into an artery in the leg and passes them up to the heart, a coil is inserted into the valve blocking it off… and voila, good as new!
In my case it wasn’t that easy.. it was a different place and time, and I don’t even know if scopic surgery existed. My surgeon(s) made a good sized incision into the left side of my chest, reached in, and tied off the valve. Below you will find a picture I found online of the type of incision that was used in my surgery. I do believe this is a new scar, so keep in mind mine is MANY years old now, so it is quite faded.
That is a far cry from a few keyhole cuts isn’t it?!? Yes, I do have a good sized scar, but I am proud of it… it is a badge of courage (and not just my own, my family’s courage also), and I wear it proudly.. If it wasn’t there I might not be here…
Anyway, as this show came to an end, it showed this little boy a year later… and many surgeries later, smiling and cooing at his very HAPPY Mom… What a MIRACLE!! And again a choked back tears…
“Yes honey, you really should ask my parents what it was like for them…” I said…. after all they were the “heart and soul” of the operation and my healing. It was the surgeon who fixed my heart, but it was my parents who selflessly gave me theirs… and now as a parent I fully appreciate what it must have been like for them.
Thanks Mom and Dad…. I love you guys!!
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