Star Patient

We have been having good days over here in the PCTICU. Patrick just had his echo this morning, so we’ll see if his PDA has closed and if his pulmonary artery looks good.

Patrick is no longer on any IV meds or nutrients, so they were able to take out the IV that was inserted through his umbilical cord stump on the day he was born. Now that he no longer has that line, we are allowed to pick him up and hold him at will. It has been awesome for us to have that new freedom and to be able to cuddle him a little better.

Patricks sats (aka the amount of oxygen saturation in his blood circulation) have been really good–we’ve even seen it get close to 100%. Depending on what the doctors see on the echo, they have been talking about us going home as early as Monday! We will definitely go home with a pulse ox monitor, but it sounds like we may only have to have it on periodically throughout the day. Patrick has a prescription for medication that should prevent heart arrhythmias (his heart rate has spiked a couple of times this past week), and we will need to fortify breast milk with special formula for a higher calorie diet.

Diet will be our main concern, I think, for awhile. We’ll have to try and get this kid to gain weight and grow. He doesn’t eat as much as they would like him too. Other than that, they are calling him a star patient and they seem really pleased with how he is doing.

Thanks everyone for your prayers, we’re getting excited to take him home!

Advertisements

Patrick

I am finally snagging a chance to post on here. Thank you everyone for the amazing support and messages we have been receiving! While I have not been able to respond to many, I have read every single email, facebook comment, text message, and carrier pigeon correspondence. Patrick has quite the fan base and we are SO appreciative.

The main things they are watching with Patrick are his heart rate and oxygen saturation levels. There is a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus that takes blood to the lungs while the baby is growing in the womb. After birth, the vessel closes up and the pulmonary artery takes over the task of taking blood to the lungs where they now become enriched with oxygen. Because Patrick’s pulmonary artery seemed compromised due to the problems with his heart, the doctors have been medicating Patrick with prostaglandin(s) to temporarily keep his patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) open. This allowed the PDA to help compensate for the under-developed pulmonary artery by keeping blood flow to the lungs and, in the long run, sending oxygen throughout Patrick’s little body.

This morning the cardiology team conferenced over Patrick’s case to discuss a plan of attack. From what they saw in Patrick’s echo, his pulmonary artery is working a little more than they may have initially thought it would. So this morning they took him off of the medication to see how he does without the PDA. In the morning they will do another echo to see if the PDA has closed up and check things out. So far he his oxygen saturation level has stayed in a decent range and a fun side benefit of going off the meds is that Patrick is able to be more alert. He can actually open his eyes and keep them open for awhile, which we of course think is amazing and so stinking cute. Pretty much everything he does is awesome in our book.

Depending on how things go with this PDA experiment, and with anything else that comes up in the next few days (or weeks), the doctors have a few options they are considering. I will now make a lame attempt to tell you about the procedures that are on the table. Heart Moms and Dads: please feel free to correct me where I misunderstand and misinform.

One route would be the Modified Blalock-Taussig Shunt–which would be a tube that they insert between the pulmonary artery and a branch of the aorta. This would be a temporary fix to make sure blood gets to Patrick’s lungs. Eventually Patrick would need more surgery for a longer-lasting fix.

Another possible procedure is a heart catheter. I am not entirely sure if this is just something that they would use to learn more about how his heart is working, but the impression that I got was that they can insert a balloon into Patrick’s heart and then put a little air in the balloon to open up his pulmonary artery a little more. They would go in through his leg/groin and up into his heart.

There is a third option that they’ve mentioned, but I don’t remember for certain what it was called. I think it is the Starnes Procedure. I need to find out more about that one–I’m sure it’s been explained to us but not necessarily in connection with the name of the procedure.

The doctors seem to anticipate that Patrick will need the Glenn Procedure eventually, regardless of what they do for a temporary solution right now. I *think* that the Glenn is either similar too or interchangeable/combined with the Fontan (re-routing the plumbing of the heart to skip Patrick’s faulty tricuspid valve).

There is still a chance that Patrick will not need surgery immediately, and we can take him home and grow him before the Glenn Procedure is absolutely necessary.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get on here more often now. Braden has been great about updating Facebook, I’ll try to get some photos and videos on here as well.

Reality Check

We have been getting so excited for Pedro to arrive, and our preparations and anticipation distract us from worrying too much. Afterall, we really won’t know what will be needed until shortly after he is born. So, we are optimistic. Sometimes being optimistic makes it somewhat bitter to swallow any news other than “things look the same” or “he’s doing fine”. We find ourselves secretly hoping that one of these days the doctors will pronounce Pedro’s heart miraculously healed or something.  I know, I know, in denial much?

We made a visit to St. Joe’s this morning for a fetal echo and consult with Dr. Diab. As before, they could see that Pedro’s tricuspid valve is leaking significantly and that his heart is enlarged. Dr. Diab indicated that Pedro’s heart fills (or will soon fill) the majority of his chest cavity. Dr. Diab suspects that Pedro will need immediate surgery to put a shunt in, but it will all depend on how things function once he’s born. Apparently one of the benefits of the shunt would be that his heart would rapidly shrink down and be a closer-to-normal size. I believe the main purpose of the shunt, though, would be to make sure that enough blood can get to the lungs.

On Friday we will meet with the surgeon, Dr. Nigro, again, so we’ll have a chance to learn more about what would be entailed in the shunt procedure.

More Showering ☂

I work with seriously great people at ASU! Pedro will have a few adopted aunts to entertain once he’s here. In the meantime, they made use of Braden and I for entertainment with some hi-larious games/activities at a baby shower they threw for us last week.

Braden was able to get away from work for a couple of hours to join us on campus. As soon as he arrived, they had him put a balloon up his shirt…

Braden found some good uses for  his balloon baby:

Other  times, the belly seemed to impede him a bit…I wonder what that’s like? Must be so frustrating not to be able to reach things, etc…

At the end of the shower, Braden ‘gave birth’ to his balloon by popping it–inside was the answer to one of the door prize questions: “What was Braden’s birthweight?” The answer is 7 lbs. even. It is sort of looking like Pedro will surpass his father in that department–the little guy was already 4lbs. 9oz. last Friday! He could be over 5 lbs. by now with about 6-7 weeks left to go!

Besides fun parties, things have been going well otherwise, too. Pedro has passed each Biophysical Profile (BPP) and seems to be doing really well in spite of his heart issues. They have even scaled back and are only having me come in once a week, instead of twice. For BPP’s  they check 4 different criteria to see how he is doing overall: 1. Fetal Movement, 2. Fetal Breathing (aka oxygen flow to all the important parts), 3. Quantity of Amniotic Fluid, and 4. Fetal Heart Rate. If it were a graded test, and not just pass/fail, I wonder if they’d give him an A+ for movement. This kid rarely holds still!

Take Heart

We had a fetal echo at St. Joe’s on Wednesday and met Dr. Alboliras, one of the Pediatric Cardiologists at the Heart Center there. He was pretty positive about everything, and got a good look at Pedro’s whacky ticker. Although the right side is enlarged, Pedro’s heart rate is still good and circulation to the lungs, etc. is still normal. Dr. Alboliras indicated that the regurgitation is only moderate at this point and he feels confident that we will be able to go full term!

Dr. Alboliras also said that Pedro’s tricuspid valve (particularly the long leaflet) looks amenable to surgical repair–meaning it’s fixable, in his opinion. As always, we will have to see how Pedro does once he makes his debut. He will probably be in the NICU for at least a week or two while they stabilize (if necessary) and monitor him.

Ultrasound & Echo – 30 Weeks Pregnant

Pedro was nice to the ultrasound tech today and he even let her  take some images of his face! I think he liked her because she said nice things about his cuteness. Braden thinks that the tech was just sneaky/stealthy (read: she didn’t push very hard) and therefore Pedro did not detect anything to attack. Whatever the reason, we are happy to see his wee little mug:

And here is his weapon of mass destruction (my ribs cringe at the sight…)

The tech calculated his weight at 3lbs. 9 oz. Apparently that is more than a large jicama, but less than a pineapple (if you like to  think in terms of produce, and who doesn’t?) A pineapple is much cuter than a jicama, but I doubt either of them would be as good-looking as Pedro is going to be in his Angels gear and various duds from the grandmas and others. (thanks ♥)

Now about his heart.  Today they could see that the right side is significantly enlarged. The regurgitation of blood from the right ventricle back into the right atrium is causing the atrium to fill up and expand. While it is no surprise that this is happening–everyone had hoped it would be later in the pregnancy (or not at all, please!)

I *think* this next image shows the problem. I could be way off because we weren’t looking at anything in particular when the doctor told me about the enlarge-ness. But I believe these measurements of his heart show a large circle to capture the circumference of the whole heart, and a smaller circle around the right side of his heart:

We’re still crossing our fingers for a full term baby. Starting after my St. Joe’s ultrasound next week, I’ll go into the OB’s office twice a week so that they can keep a close watch.

In the meantime, it’s a really good sign that Pedro is so active and it should be easy to tell if his heart starts slowing him down. I’m not so sure that this little dude would let anything deter him from his regiment of kick-boxing and aqua aerobics, but I’ll notice if he does actually get quiet.

This last image is just one that I thought was interesting–it shows the blood flow to and from Pedro via the umbilical cord:

In Good Company

It was so nice to get away for a few days and have tons of family to distract or encourage us, depending on the moment. Thanks go out to my Mom & Dad for all of their efforts for our family reunion and to our other family  members who planned activities and special occasions so that we could be there.

I mentioned a 17-month-old girl with Ebstein’s in a previous post–we have since heard from her family, the Lowry’s. Although they are from Prescott, AZ, we were actually able to meet up with them while we were in Utah this past weekend. It was awesome to meet them and to see their cute little girl running around and happy in spite of her first surgery (primarily a valve repair, I believe) on June 10th. They were hoping that additional procedures/surgeries will not be needed, but based on her follow-up visit it sounds like she might need the Glenn procedure as well. We are definitely hoping for the best for them!

The Lowry’s are pretty much great all around. They took time away from their family festivities to talk with us. It was nice to get a better idea of what to expect, particularly everyday things we will need to do for our son. Mostly, though, we appreciated the meet-up because it’s good to remember that we are not the only ones that this has happened to. It’s amazing to have such a support network, including the Lowry’s and other “heart families” who we will probably meet and/or interact with through hospital visits and the Eller Heart Family Council.

Things we have learned from the Lowry’s include:

  • Heart babies tend to have a difficult time putting on weight because their little hearts are working so hard. I will likely need to add formula to breast-milk (if we want him to have breast-milk, which we do) and bottle-feed in order to keep track of Pedro’s caloric intake.
  • When Pedro comes home with us, he will probably have a monitor that alerts us if his oxygen level drops. For the Lowry’s this usually happened during the night when the monitor got kicked off or their baby relaxed and her ox naturally dropped. We weren’t planning to get any sleep anyway, though, right? (I say “we”, but who am I kidding? We all know that Braden has slept through louder things.)
  • Some heart babies take Viagra in order to help their blood flow
  • The Mayo Clinic a youtube video about Ebstein’s Anomaly:

All Roads Lead to Nigro

Yesterday I had a consultation with Dr. Jedeikin from the Arizona Pediatric Cardiology group (affiliated with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital) for a second opinion/option kind of thing. We were tempted to cancel the appointment because we feel so good about the St. Joe’s group, but we decided that we should see what Dr. Jedeikin  had to say. You know, due diligence and everything.

Dr. Jedeikin seems really great. (And I’m not just saying that because I like his South African accent…) He is very, very passionate about hearts and cardiology. He did a fetal echo and went over Ebstein’s Anomaly with me again. I always learn new things about the heart, and I came away in awe of all of the many facets of a human heart–how do all of those parts work perfectly in most people?!

Dr. Jedeikin’s assessment and approach to Pedro’s case is pretty much the same as those we’ve heard from the other doctors involved. He hopes that immediate surgery will not be necessary, and has pretty much the same plan for monitoring our little guy’s heart–both pre and post delivery. He had good things to say about the Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH), but apparently he could work with us even if we choose St. Joe’s for delivery. He encouraged me to deliver at St. Joe’s since that is where my new OB delivers (rather than switch OB’s again in order to deliver at the hospital near PCH). From this I concluded that both hospitals are a good choice, and we just need to pick the one that we feel most comfortable with. They both have Level 3 NICU’s.

Probably the most interesting/encouraging part of this consultation was that Dr. Jedeikin would involve Dr. Nigro for the surgery aspect. Dr. Nigro seems to be the go-to guy for surgery in these cases, regardless of which hospital we go to.

So, since:

  1. the hospitals are comparable
  2. we get Dr. Nigro either way
  3. the Pediatric Cardiologists are excellent either way

…we are free to choose the hospital and Pediatric Cardiologist(s)  that we feel the best about. We still appreciate that at St. Joe’s I would deliver and recover at the same hospital where Pedro would be in the NICU. We also feel like the program with the St. Joe’s cardiology group is a better fit for us–much more supportive and user-friendly. Also, once you meet Beth, the nurse practitioner, it’s a no-brainer. She is off-the-hook amazing.

Although it did not change our mind, I’m really glad I went to see Dr. Jedeikin. Now we can feel even more confident about our decisions, and I appreciated learning more about Pedro’s heart. Here are a few things I now understand after meeting with him:

  • The tricuspid valve is made up of three leaflets, one of them is the ‘Septal leaflet.’ Pedro’s septal leaflet is dysplastic–which means it is gnarly, thickened and crumply. The other two leaflets are doing all of the work to open and close the valve as best they can–which is why one of the leaflets is longer and floppier, it’s trying to cover the Septal leaflet’s territory too.
  • Dr. Jedeikin did not think that Pedro’s Septal Leaflet would be fixable because it is so dysplastic.
  • If surgery does become necessary, it is possible that they would move the leaflets closer together so that the functional leaflets can adequately close the valve with each heartbeat.
  • He didn’t go into all of the details, but if it becomes necessary to surgically re-route Pedro’s heart so that it operates with a single ventricle scenario (not preferable), there are a few different procedures:

Blalock-Tuassig Shunt

Starnes Procedure

Glenn Procedure

Fontan Procedure

{Pedro could need all, none, or some combination of the procedures. We have heard a little about these procedures before, but had not learned all of the names yet. I’ll activate hyperlinks if I find good descriptions for them.}

Oh and, Pedro’s new trick of the day was rolling. The sonnographer laughed with me this time when Pedro would roll away while they were trying to record his heart. Then he would roll back and punch the ultrasound wand. He definitely has a little personality already ♥

Meet the Surgeon

Here I am getting more rotund, these were taken this morning right before we visited St. Joe’s again:

Our activity of the day was to sit down with Dr. Nigro (\nye-grow\)  in order to get to know him and play 20 Questions. I think we got really close to 20 Questions–but they didn’t give us a prize or anything…Bummer. Dr. Nigro has extensive experience handling similar cases of Ebstein’s Anomaly with successful outcomes. The only fatalaty he has seen was a result of an unrelated illness, and not from the surgery itself.

Dr. Nigro was very encouraging. He talked about the range of severity of Ebstein’s in babies like ours, a spectrum that goes from the severe end to the mild end. At the mild end the babies seem like any other baby when they are born (on the outside). Dr. Nigro feels that Pedro will probably be closer to the mild end and he is hopeful that surgery won’t be necessary right away. He compared Pedro to a little girl who was born with a similar case of Ebstein’s and she just barely had her first surgery (and they hope her only surgery) at about 17 months. Compared to surgery as a newborn, surgery after the first year sounds much better.

Dr. Nigro also feels that the Fontan procedure , where the plumbing of the heart is re-routed to skip the faulty valve, will not be needed for Pedro. He seems hopeful that Pedro’s leaky valve will be repairable. Whether or not it takes multiple surgeries will depend on how early surgery is required and on how well Pedro does with it.

All around, we enjoyed meeting Dr. Nigro–especially because in addition to being capable and professional, he has a good sense of humor. We had read his bio beforehand and knew that he had done his residencies at USC. So, of course, Braden’s first question was sports related–and Dr. Nigro just ran with it. Is humor a basis for selecting a hospital and a surgeon? Nope.com. But it’s nice to feel a connection with them anyway.

“St. Joe’s” – 27 Weeks Pregnant

Early this morning we had a fetal echo and a consultation at the Scott and Laura Eller Congenital Heart Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center (St. Joe’s).  The ultrasound showed that Pedro’s tricuspid valve is leaking a significant amount of blood from the Right Ventricle into the Right Atrium. We sat down with a Fetal/neonatal Cardiac Nurse Practitioner and a Pediatric Cardiologist. We felt really comfortable with them and came away much more reassured. They confirmed the diagnosis of Ebstein’s Anomaly and explained the condition using diagrams and a plastic model heart. Here are some things we learned from them:

  • Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect
  • Ebstein’s Anomaly (EA) accounts for < 1% of congenital heart defects—it’s very rare and seemingly random
  • They are not sure what causes EA, but they know that it starts forming between 4-6 weeks of gestation and that it seems to be linked to the sequencing of DNA. So they think it isn’t genetic and it isn’t environmental. It’s a fluke.
  • After birth, circulation changes and there’s a chance that the leak will not be as severe—so it’s possible that his valve and heart could function well enough to buy some time for him to mature and grow a bit before surgery.
  • Pedro’s Pulmonary Artery (which takes blood to the lungs) is developing as it should. This is significant because in cases of EA sometimes the artery is affected. Pedro’s healthy artery increases the chances of his little heart functioning adequately after birth.
  • Families who have children with congenital heart defects are usually amiable to meeting and mentoring people like us—the nurse is getting us connected with parents who have been through this.

Their approach to Pedro’s case:

  • The goal is to go full term and deliver at St. Joe’s with a team of cardiac specialists—everyone who would be involved, from the nurses to the surgeons, has a background in working with babies and children with congenital heart defects.
  • The only reason to deliver early is if hydrops form. Hydrops are moisture retention around the heart.
  • We will get to hold Pedro for a few minutes when he is born, as long as he is breathing okay. Then Pedro will go to the NICU to be monitored, Braden will go with him.
  • Pedro will most likely need heart surgery at some point in his life—after he is born we will know if he needs surgery immediately or if it can wait until he’s a little older.
  • If Pedro needs surgery immediately, they would probably keep him at St. Joe’s for a month. We would stay there with him in a family suite.
  • There are two different surgical approaches on the table:
    • If Pedro’s tricuspid valve is repairable, then it should only take one surgery to fix it up and reduce the leaking. He will never have a normal heart and there is a chance that he would eventually need a valve replacement when he’s older—but there is also a chance that it would never bother him again.
    • If Pedro’s valve is beyond repair, they can re-route the blood so that it skips the right side of his heart completely. This would take three surgeries—probably one in the first week of birth, a second surgery at 3-4 months old, and a third surgery at 2-4 years of age.
    • A valve replacement is not a good option in a newborn because the valve would not grow with him.
    • In the NICU they will nourish Pedro through an IV into his umbilical cord stub. They will also use the umbilical cord to draw blood samples so that they don’t have to stick him every time.
    • As long as the surgery/surgeries go well, Pedro should have a normal life and a normal life expectancy.
    • Dr Diab estimated Pedro’s chances of survival to be over 90%
    • Barring the development of hydrops—they do not anticipate that I will need to be induced or have a C-Section. If either of those procedures do become needed, it would be for the usual reasons and not because of Pedro’s heart.