Tabitha Haizlip, North Carolina
On August 30th 2012 our eight day old son, Broden, suddenly stopped feeding. This was unusual as he had been a big eater until that time. We made an appointment with the pediatrician to have him examined right away. While examining Broden the doctor discovered an unusually low body temperature along with a rapid heartbeat.
We were sent from the doctor’s office to Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston Salem, NC for an echocardiogram. Once we arrived Broden was immediately placed in a room for evaluation where medical personnel began administering tests while inserting IV’s into our baby boy. We impatiently waited outside the room for a diagnosis. Within minutes, we were informed our son was born with severe aortic coarctation and his condition required immediate intervention. His tiny heart was beating 256 beats per minute as he struggled to breathe taking 96 breaths per minute. We also learned his lactate level was causing the organs in his lower body to begin shutting down, explaining why he refused to eat.
While doctors developed a treatment plan, we sat distraught in a small sitting room asking ourselves: “What is coarctation? How did this happen? Will he survive?” The doctors educated us on his congenital heart defect and informed us that this particular condition is typically repairable with surgery, but because his tiny body was in shock and he was so sick they were uncertain he could withstand an operation.
The surgeon was called in and he gave us two options. The first option was to put Broden on the ECMO machine to stabilize him for a few days. However, the risks outweighed the benefits. Since a blood thinner is required with this option, there was a high chance that bleeding could occur in the brain and/or the aorta could rupture in the process. For more than three hours Broden received medication via IV to try and open the ductus valve, which is usually successful, but for Broden did not work.
Now, the surgeon felt surgery was the only option or he would not survive through the night. My husband and I had already decided we wanted to go ahead with the surgery and not wait. We signed the release form, walked with medical staff to the double doors of the operating room and kissed our baby boy. We waited nervously for five long hours.
Our little warrior survived the operation but suffered immensely the hours leading up to his diagnosis. We were dismayed to learn that his near death experience may have been avoided if only a simple, relatively inexpensive test, pulse oximetry, been used to measure his blood oxygen saturation after birth.
Broden had his first operation at just eight days old, a cath balloon angioplasty at 8 weeks old and his second operation, open chest heart surgery at nine weeks old. We strongly believe had his congenital heart defect been detected shortly after birth using pulse oximetry testing, our son would have undergone just one operation, while his vitals were stable and he was an otherwise healthy baby. We’re very thankful we took him to the pediatrician that day since the onset of this particular CHD is so subtle. Had we waited a few more hours to see if he would start eating, the outcome may have been very different.
Blog content provided by Tabitha Haizlip, mother of CHD survivor Brodan, and a NC You’re the Cure Advocate.