Around this time last week, we discovered that our 2-year-old daughter had an undiagnosed PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosus). Not a particularly alarming congenital heart defect, but after losing our son in June to TOF (Tetralogy of Fallot), I was beside myself with worry and concern for Sadie.
Sawyer in the NICU
When we revisited Comer Children's Hospital to meet with Sawyer's neonatologist after he passed away, one thing she said to me had stuck out among all the medical terms and tears. She suggested that it wouldn't be a bad idea to get Sadie's heart checked out, as congenital heart defects tend to group themselves in families.
Shortly after Sadie's birth, she began to have her share of troubles too. In the NICU for a few weeks and on a ventilator - she fought very hard and made huge strides every day. But,one thing I never thought twice about was her heart. We were told she had a murmur and that most babies outgrow them and that they are most often "innocent."
Sadie in the NICU
When the cardiologist began listening to her heart last week, I was taken by surprise when she mentioned the murmur again. Her pediatrician hadn't said one word about it at any visit we've had in over two years.
As the appointment continued, Sadie had an EKG and finally, an echocardiogram.
Sadie was a trooper and was sitting in her pull-up on the exam table, coloring while the cardiologist informed me that she indeed had a PDA and narrowing of her pulmonary artery (Pulmonary Stenosis). Thankfully, her PDA doesn't need to be repaired surgically at this juncture in her life. She will continue to be monitored each year for changes and eventually it will be repaired.
I never would have thought twice about Sadie's heart if it wasn't for the suggestion from Sawyer's doctor.
According to the American Heart Association, "the risk of having a child with congenital heart disease is higher if a parent or a sibling has a congenital heart defect."
Most parents of heart babies struggle to come to terms with the often scary diagnosis of their infant or small child. And often, other siblings can be overlooked in the craziness that is the life of a CHD family. As mothers and fathers, we have instinct for a reason and I've talked with so many parents who question whether or not their other children should be seen by a cardiologist. No one wants to hear bad news twice, but we also want to do what is the best for our little ones.
In sharing our story, I hope this helps one family that may be struggling to make that difficult choice an easy one.