Category: Advacacy

I wear red for Logan.

The Month of February is Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Month. Today had me thinking about the last 3 years and everything we have been thru. Honestly, I don’t know how I got thru it. From getting the devastating diagnosis that kept getting worse every single time we saw a new doctor, to having to rock him in my arms for 8-10 hours a day just to keep him calm while he was in severe congestive heart failure, to his first surgery in which we spent 6 weeks in an intensive care unit wondering if he would ever come home. During his second surgery (his ‘sutureless’) which was a complete shock in and of itself, we thought we were having a cath, but 4 days later we were having his 2nd open heart surgery. The most traumatic moment was when we came the closest to losing him. I remember his heart rate was getting up to 285 and his BP was dropping to almost 30….
His surgeon, looking very concerned said (which is forever ingrained in my mind) “I have to get in there right now, there is no time for anesthesia to come, I need to operate now.” We left the room shaking….I asked the nurse, “no anesthesia?” I was told, “well he has morphine in his system.”
These moments are the nightmares I live with every day. I know that I will never be the same.

I wear red for Logan.

Today had me thinking about all the children and their parents that I have gotten to know. The children that have passed on from this life are the ones that leave me with a burning desire to advocate and improve the outcomes for our kids.

I wear red for William.

I wear red for Noah.

I wear red for Elise.

I wear red for Pierce.

I wear red Ava.

I wear red for Rita.

I wear red for Jayson.

I wear red for EJ.

I wear red for Brookyn.

I wear red for Savannah.

I wear red for the countless heterotaxy children that I never met but whom I will forever be connected to by heart.

I don’t think its possible to describe the life we lead as parents to these children. The ups then downs, the unknowns, the waiting, the questions that can’t even be answered.
“there just aren’t enough kids alive, with what Logan has to have any real answers.” I have been told that one countless times.
If you just look at Logan’s first year of life, you will get a glimpse, of what our life has been like.

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As far from any dream about ‘ideal birth plans’ as one could get

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He was taken from me immediately, and I was not able to see him till the next day.  Excruciating is an understatement.

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Staring at my boys the last night before Logan’s first and most risky surgery, wondering if this was the last time Ethan would see his brother. At this point even though Logan looks like a normal baby….he really only had weeks to live.

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His bidirectional Glenn, AV valve repair, TAPVR repair, and SVC ligation.

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Yes, this was Logan’s post-Glenn oxygen sats.

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See how very blue he was in this picture?  It looks like he is holding his breath or something but in fact the path that blood goes after getting oxygenated in the lungs was blocked and he had close to only have of the oxygen in his blood that a healthy child should have.

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At this appointment I was told that Logan’s only chance of survival was a bilateral lung and heart transplant, because that blockage was not ‘fixable.’  This was the point that I decided that the only team I was going to listen to was Boston Children’s Hospital.  They disagreed, and this is when he had his ‘sutureless’ repair.

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Despite Dr. Jim Lock doing an amazing cardiac cath and bringing Logan’s sats up 20 points, it was decided that he needed to have the obstruction surgically removed.

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Despite the surgery opening up the pulmonary veins he still settled out in the low to mid 70’s post Glenn.  His heart however, was not having to work as hard, and for the first time, he didn’t become drenched in sweat while eating or crying.

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Logan on his first birthday.  At 12 months old, Logan could not sit, crawl, or roll, Logan wasn’t even strong enough to hold his head up yet.  He was medically anorexic and wearing 3-6 month clothing.

This was just Logan’s first 12 months of life. 

That is why,

I wear red for Logan.

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Pierce featured on CHB’s Website

Social media helps bring very sick patient to

Children’s

by Tripp Underwood on December 21, 2011 (taken from CHB’s blog)

Pierce Heilinger recently underwent a complex surgery at Children’s Hospital Boston that may have saved his life. The young patient’s story has resonated deeply with parents who use social media, and even though many of those people had never met the child or his family, that online support system was instrumental in bringing him to Boston.

Pierce has heterotaxy syndrome, a birth defect that involves the heart and other organs. Normally the human body has organs that grow on both sides, like the lungs or kidneys, and others that develop on a specific side, like the stomach or liver. But with cases of heterotaxy one or more of those organs may be reversed, including the heart.

In researching her son’s condition, Pierce’s mother Jessamyn learned that despite being an extremely rare condition Children’s Hospital Boston has performed over 100 surgeries to correct heterotaxy syndrome in the past few years.

In her search she also came upon a group of internet-savvy parents—many who have children with heart defects— including several whose kids were treated at Children’s. Collectively these moms tapped into their individual social networks and through forums like Facebook, Twitter and blogs they were able to raise enough money and awareness around Pierce’s situation to bring him to Boston.

Baby Pierce’s condition may be rare, but the strength and passion his mother showed in arranging his care is not. There are tens of thousands of parents whose children are battling illness, and like Jessamyn many are using social media to educate people about their conditions or support others facing similar situations. Individually these outlets represent a small portion of the Internet population, but together they have a powerful voice that can be heard by millions.

The movement that brought baby Pierce to Children’s is proof of their collective strength.

As the online experience becomes more personalized, this type of interactive communication will become more and more common. And for parents dealing with the stress of childhood illness that deeper connection to others who share their fears and frustrations can be very comforting. But like with all online medical information, these forums should be approached with a buyer beware mentality; health information is only as valuable as the source providing it. With so many medical sites and forums competing for digital readership, more than a few inaccurate pages have attracted followers.

Fortunately for parents interested in pediatric heart conditions, there’s The Heart Center at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Facebook page. Our page offers families a secure place to interact with each other and get plenty of factual information on pediatric heart health. It currently connects over 2,000 families and is monitored by a pediatric cardiology specialist who can direct people with specific treatment questions to the proper channels.
If information on heart health and treatment is important to you, or you are looking to connect with other families who have been touched by a pediatric heart condition, please join our page and help us grow the conversation online.

Meet Baby Pierce

Meet Baby Pierce.  He has a very similar type of Heterotaxy that Logan has.  Jessamyn (Pierce’s Mother), myself, and many others fought like mad to get him transferred to a heart center that has more experience with  these types of children.  That was going to be his only shot at living.  Pierce is so sick that even in the best hands his recovery is going to be very hard.

For a Preview of the CNN piece please veiw the short promo piece on the below link (takes a little time to load…) 
http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=health/2011/12/16/pkg-saving-baby-pierce.cnn
Finally, after the fight of our lives, Pierce arrived safely in Boston last Fri. night.   He is going into surgery today.  Today is the day that Pierce’s heart will get fixed.  Please keep this family in your hearts today as Pierce under goes a long long long surgery.

For the full story on Pierce please tune in to Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN tonight.  This is a very important story.  This is a story not only about just Pierce but a story about how difficult our current medical system makes it to get our children the best care we can.  This is a story that affects us all.

And please remember to check out The Heterotaxy Network on FB we have a small but mighty group of heterotaxy families.   I can guarantee you that there is no group on the planet more knowledgable about heterotaxy than our humble group of families.

The Heterotaxy Network

First, I am sorry for my lack of updating this blog lately.  I have been focusing much of my attention on getting our new Heterotaxy Network site up and running.  This is incredibly important to me.  This syndrome is so rare that in order to really understand what is working for them and what isn’t we need a website to be able to share information with each other.  We have run into some hiccups…( 3 web designers in row committed to the job and then backed out) but we still have a developer and a fabulous user experience expert (thank you Maria!) and we are determined to get this site up.  The site is going to include a memorial page for our Heterotaxy friends that have passed away, as well as inspiring stories of hope.  We are going to get our own forum up so that we can talk and ask each other questions, and have a collective (and current) source for all Heterotaxy related research and publications. 

When I was given the diagnosis of Right Atrial Isomerism/Heterotaxy Syndrome at my 20 week scan, I immediately went home to do as much research as I could about this defect.  I know enough about the medical community to know that not all doctors, surgeons, and hospitals are created equal and that I was going to find the best team I could for Logan.  There is so much that I can’t control in this world but I knew I could take some of the control back by finding the best team I could. 

When I first googled Heterotaxy Syndrome I was stunned. There was NOTHING.  There was obscure research articles and publications using abbreviations that I didn’t understand.  There was no statistics, no answers, almost no information at all.   So I did what any stressed out, neurotic woman would do…..I went to www.amazon.com and searched for books about pediatric heart surgery, pediatric heart defects, congenital heart defects, open heart surgery, and many more.  I ordered a stack of books….and I read….and read. 

FOR MONTHS.  I studied all things heart related.  And then I read this book….

Walk on Water: The Miracle of Saving Children’s Lives

 

http://www.amazon.com/Walk-Water-Miracle-Saving-Childrens/dp/0142004111/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1320894829&sr=8-2

If you do one small thing that will greatly improve the outcome of your child’s care it is this….

READ THIS BOOK. 

 I know that all of this is scary and I know its easy to bury your head in the sand, but it turns out….we have every reason in the world to be terrified, scared, and to question our doctors.  This is a very hard book to read.  It is so real, it is exactly what we go thru…the only difference here is that you get a glimpse of the other side.  What the doctors think…what they are not telling us.  

And what they are not telling us is frightening. 

We must educate ourselves so we can advocate for our children.  I the last few months I witnessed heroic heart repairs from surgeons and heart centers that fight till the very end for our kids. And then I have seen the exact opposite.  Heart centers that just give up.  They don’t try….they say it’s not worth it, it will be too hard on your family, it will be too much for your baby to go thru……

 Logan has the worst heart defect you can have and has had all the even worse ‘Risk Factors For Death” as stated in all the publications….and he is alive and he is happy.  Was this luck? NO Was it Fate? NO  It was months and months and months of obsessive reading, studying, and analyzing what would be the very best care for Logan.  I sought opinions from multiple hospitals, surgeons, and pediatric cardiologists.  Everything in the literature said that RAI/Heterotaxy with Severe AV valve regurgitation was a death sentence.  So I took him to the best pediatric heart valve surgeon in the country (Dr. Del Nido – Boston).  Logan now has NO regurg in his valve.  He also has small pulmonary arteries (the tube that brings oxygen to the lungs) and acquired Pulmonary Vein Stenosis ( all “Risk Factors For Death” in RAI/Heteortaxy). 

There are experts out there for various defects.  Like Dr. Del Nido being the foremost expert on pediatric heart valves, and Dr. Frank Hanley (Stanford) being the world expert on correcting MAPCAs (when you don’t have one tube taking oxygen to your lungs but a bunch of very tiny ones)  but how do you find this information?  What do you do when you get the diagnosis of Right Atrial Isomerism & Heterotaxy Syndrome and google it and there is nothing there???

This is why The Heterotaxy Network is so important.  Not just for families here in the US but for families from all over the world.  There is hope.  And by bringing us together and sharing stories, and resources, we can help each other, we can help the doctors.  There is so little they even know about heterotaxy.  I can’t tell you how many times a family has shared that their pediatric cardiologist had to GOOGLE heterotaxy before having a family conference.  And what good is googling heterotaxy when there is nothing there? 

But none of that is even slightly as upsetting as the discrepancies between pediatric heart centers.  In a world of sadness, loss, grief, and tremendous responsibility that we hand over to our trusted doctors, it turns out that many times our precious child is not the priority. In many cases politics, ego, money, resume building, paper writing, conference speaking, and administration pleasing are all the priorities that come before our children. 

We need to be their voice. 

Many, many, many pediatric cardiologists have come out of the woodwork to agree with what I am about to tell you right now.  There are less than a handful of surgeons that they would let come near their own child if they had a diagnosis as complex as Heterotaxy Syndrome. 

Can they tell you that? NO

Will they lie to your face? YES

When you ask them…”what would you do if it were your child?”

9 times out of 10 they are not being completely honest.

But it It is not all about the surgeon anyway.  Was it extremely important to find Dr. Del Nido to fix Logan’s AV valve? YES But equally important was the skill set of the nursing and CICU team that cared for him afterwards.  Heterotaxy is incredibly rare and unless you have a team of nurses and doctors that are versed in all things heterotaxy your child will likely get into big trouble in a variety of areas….(sepsis, vent dependence, feeding issues, low nitric production, just to name a few…) Heterotaxy kids are so much more complex than just a heart defect, you need to find a center that has a good pulmonology, gastrointestinal, CICU nurses, infectious disease, and a hospital that has made a (real) concerted effort to reduce their infection rates (infection is the second leading cause of death for our kids….)

My goals for The Heteortaxy Network are very simple.

1. Connect Families all over the world with this illness

2. To provide a comprehensive resource of all things related to Heterotaxy for families as well as clinicians.

3. To help facilitate a change in the outcomes for our children.

Please stay tuned for more information about The Heterotaxy Network, how you join, how you can help, and how you can connect with other families in your country.

A Day in History.

So it is official!

HHS Secretary adopts recommendation to add Congenital Cyanotic Heart Disease to the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (PDF – 212 KB) 09/21/2011

I just want to thank a dear friend of mine, a friend that I am so honored to know, for 2 straight years she spent fighting for this.  Fighting for every newborn baby to have the chance to be screened for a critical congenital heart disease. 

Baby’s are tested already for hearing and a whole host of metabolic disorders but the most common defect in all newborns was not being tested for.  It was a huge gap that caused many unnecessary deaths…but it is now closed.  Thank you Annamarie, and all the organizations that helped and supported the effort as well. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Your commitment is nothing short of awe-inspiring. 

Thank you.

For information about Annamarie, #1in100, and the incredible work that she does in not only Congenital Heart Disease but also in newborn care in general please take a look at and support these organizations.

http://1in100.org/

http://newborncoalition.com/

If you would like to learn more about why routine testing of newborn oxygen saturation is so extremely important please read this story.  It is a heartbreaking story of a fellow heart Mom whose daughter lived only a few short days because of an undiagnosed CHD.

http://www.corasstory.org/

And please remember that as states, hospitals, and clinicians slowly begin to implement the new recommendations, please ask your health care providers to check the oxygen saturation of your newborn at birth.  Even writing that in a sentence sounds so ridiculous.  They check a newborns hearing at birth and not their oxygen levels? YES. 

And to make things even more ridiculous sounding, checking a newborns oxygen level costs pennies, is non-invasive, and takes just a few minutes. 

In the words of Annamarie  Know More.Do More

So proud to call you my friend.

Exciting News and Not So Exciting News.

EXCITING NEWS! 

A friend of mine has been working tirelessly on getting this accomplished. 

Good job Annamarie.

At 2:40 eastern time today, the national committee on newborn screening voted to YES to recommend pulse oximetry screening for critical congenital heart disease be added to the newborn screening uniform panel.

Annamarie Saarinen founder of 1in100 has been hard at work in Washington D.C. at Senate Hearing Committees and the like testifying, providing study data, working with the UoM among many others to make this dream a reality.

“I don’t even know what to say right now…still in shock. Was not anticipating vote until January.  Have to hug Eve and have a major cry right now.  It’s due time…all babies are finally going to be screened before discharge.  Policy priority #1: DONE!!!!!” Annamarie said.

Today is a milestone in CHD History!

Here is a link to Annamarie’s organization with a great article on why this is so important for CHD’s.  1in100

 To check out 1in100 on Facebook click here.

 Also, just so it is very clear all a pulse ox test is wrapping a band-aid looking thingy around a baby’s foot and plugging the other end into a monitor that will then read what the baby’s oxygen levels are, it takes all of two minutes and could bridge the gap between (I believe it is somewhere close to 40%) of congenital Heart disease that goes undiagnosed.  If all babies are screened before they go home it is estimated that only 4% could still be missed.  That is a lot of babies saved right there by a completely non-invasive and quick test.  You may be asking yourself  ‘why wouldn’t they already be doing this?’ I am sure that if you really think about it, it wouldn’t take you very long to come up with the answer.  MONEY.  Dr.’s are worried about the secondary cost to this.  Every baby that has an oxygen level that is low will then most likely have to have an echocardiogram preformed (ultrasound on the heart).  And what about the false positives that will scare the mother and father.  Blah blah blah.  The most important thing is saving the lives of thousands of babies born every year, let everything else fall in place after that.  If you would like to read an article that clearly demolishes these arguments click here  (Published in Journal of Neonatology June 2010). 

NOT SO EXCITING NEWS!

Back @ the Cleveland Clinic 

Thurs. we went to the C. Clinic to redo Logan’s Upper GI tests. 

It was raining and so everyone wanted valet. 

Cleveland traffic sucks and it took us 1 hour and 15 min. to make the typical 25-30 min. drive.  It was right at 7AM though. 

The test itself was pretty quick, I think the last time he had it done they did the whole bowl series because it took over 3 hours last time and this time it only took 20 mn. 

He looked so cute in his little hospital gown.  Believe it or not this is the first hospital gown he has ever worn. 

He definitely has malrotated intestines and a hiatal hernia and they will both have to be fixed via surgery.  I knew this was most likely the case but there was a tiny part of me that thought maybe just maybe this wasn’t the case.  What is very strange to me is that there was so much confusion about this at the other hospital.  At the Clinic everyone has just told me very matter-of-fact that surgery is standard when these things present.  The Clinic probably sees more of these strange occurrences.  Now I just have to find out when they usually recommend getting him fixed up. 

We are going to be going to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) on Tues. to meet with their surgeon and a cardiologist.  I did some research and because Logan’s condition is so rare I thought contacting a bigger center than Ann Arbor would be worth it.  CHOP’s Cardiac intensive care unit is  has three times the number of beds and they have 50 cardiologists instead of MI’s 8.  I had also heard one Mother describe CS Mott’s Congenital Heart Center as very small,  gloomy, and depressing so I though maybe I should call around.  So far CHOP has been wonderful, very organized, friendly, and extremely accommodating.