Thursday, February 17, 2011

CHD Detection

When it comes down to it, Congenital Heart Defect detection begins at the prenatal ultrasound. It's true, some babies, whose special hearts are not screened prenatally can come into this world with hospital staff that are unaware and unprepared to provide immediate and specialized treatment.

Other times, babies are born - seemingly healthy - brought home; and hours or days or weeks later, sometimes without any clues or indications, like sweet little Cora's tragic story, turn into emergency situations or even death.

Diagnostics. Awareness. Advocacy.

These three things can save a baby's life.

I was so thrilled to read an article about a local (Winnipeg) sonographer who IS making a difference in the diagnostic aspect of CHD's. Read it if you have a minute. This is someone who has gone beyond the call, to ensure CHD's are detected.
Click here to read the CBC story on Karen Letourneau.

As a pregnant mom-to-be, it's also up to you to be sure your baby is being screened for any heart problems. I know we have to trust our health care professionals, I certainly do. I can't be an expert in every field, and I trust those who are. However, to be aware gives you the power to ask the right questions, to open dialogue with your health professional.

I came across an article, in which Dr. Nina Gotteiner, a pediatric cardiologist at Chicago Children's Memorial Hospital gives a list of 5 proactive questions that every expecting parent should ask regarding their 20 week ultrasound:

1. Do you see 4 chambers?
2 Do you look at the arteries of outflow tracks as part of your scan? *Note: Extremely important to focus on artery views. CHD is often missed if only a standard 'chamber view' is performed.
3. Are the heart and stomach in correct positions?
4. Is the heart rate normal? Is the heart rate too slow (less than 100 beats per minute), too fast (over 200 beats per minute), or irregular? *Note: A normal heart rate range is 120-180 beats per minute.
5. Is the heart function normal? Does the muscle work normally? Is everything hooked-up correctly?

Knowledge is power. Just by asking the right questions and being an advocate for your baby's health is a step towards greater awareness. You can read the whole article here.

Pulse Oximetry. This is another big one. This is a very simple, totally painless, non invasive diagnostic tool, that should be used after baby is born and before you go home. This is that little sensor, either put over a toe or a finger with that little red light that detects oxygen saturation. A low oxygen sat may indicate the presence of a heart defect.

And Nate's story?

Well, it's not the first thing to come out when someone asks about Nate. In fact, I haven't told too many people. And there are a couple of reasons. But here's a quick glimpse into our diagnostic story.

I went in for my routine ultrasound. This was my second pregnancy, so I kind of knew what to expect with the ultrasound appointment. And it was going routinely for the first while; scan around my belly, hold for the measurements, click for the image being saved. This went on for a while. Then the 'clicking' stopped. The ultrasound tech was no longer taking measurements or saving images. She was doing a lot of looking. From all different angles. This was taking a long time, and in my mind I was already thinking worst case scenario. Something was wrong. After a very long time, she honestly told me she was having trouble seeing some areas, and was just going to get the radiologist to come in and take a look as well.
The radiologist came in, and together they did some more looking. I kept hearing them talk about the right side and the left side, but I didn't have a reference to what they were talking about. Finally, at the end, he said they were just trying to get a good look at the heart, but with a pat on my leg, he assured me everything looked good.

I applaud my ultrasound tech. She knew something was up, there was something different, and she did the right thing, calling in the radiologist. If I could talk to her now, I would tell her she was on to something!! She was right, that things were not as they should be. It would be great to go back to those ultrasound images and turn it into a learning opportunity. Chances are she had never seen this CHD before, and like you already know it's a complex one!

And I thank God. I am so thankful that Nate's heart did not need any immediate intervention at birth. It scares me to think about what could have happened had things been any different. But God was in control of this situation. He knew Nate would be okay at birth and gave us the most incredible gift that day....our sweet little Nate!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Twinkle Toes

The whole family went bowling last night to celebrate a very special birthday. It was Brady's first time bowling.....and he loved it! We'll be doing this again soon!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nate's Heart!

Nate's heart is classified as a Congenital Heart Defect - meaning it was not acquired, but rather he was born with it.


Early in a baby's development in utero (about 9 weeks gestation) the heart first forms in the shape of a tube. This tube bends and folds in on itself, creating the four heart chambers and the four heart valves. If the tube bends to the left instead of the right, the ventricles are reversed: the weaker, larger right ventricle grows on the heart's left side and pumps the blood to your body; and the stronger, smaller left ventricle grows on the right side of the heart and pumps blood to the lungs. Two of the heart valves "follow " the ventricles so they are also reversed: the mitral valve is on the right and the tricuspid valve is on the left. Although the two heart valves and the two great arteries (the pulmonary artery and the aorta) are transposed or exit from the "wrong" ventricle, the blood flows to the correct place because the ventricles are also reversed. That is why this heart defect is called "corrected" transposition.

That's the anatomy in a nutshell.... a very short and concise nutshell. I won't get into all the implications of leaky valves, and the 'electrical system' this time. Don't want your eyes to start glazing over! Too much information can lead to confusion...I speak from experience! It takes a bit to fully understand it!

Ready for a quiz now?!?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Your Heart!

To understand CCTGA, it helps to firstunderstand how a normal heart works. Here is your assignment forthe day. Get to know your heart and understand it. There *may* be a quiz!!!!

I'll be back later tonight with a description of Nate's heart.

A normal heart is
divided into two sides. The right side
pumps blood from the body into the lungs. The left side
pumps the blood from the lungs out to the body. Each
side has an atrium and a ventricle. The atrium acts like a
“waiting room” for the blood. The ventricle does the hard
work of pushing the blood out to the lungs or body. At
the entrance and exit from each ventricle is a valve, which
acts like a door. These valves allow the ventricle to fill
with blood from one side, and then push it out the other.

Each ventricle and valve is designed to do its specific job.
The right ventricle is designed to give the blood a gentle
push to send it to the lungs. It is bigger than the left ventricle
and does not have as much muscle. The left ventricle
is designed to give the blood a strong push out to the
body. It has less space inside because its thick walls take
up more space. The valve between the left atrium and
ventricle, the mitral valve, is the body’s strongest valve.
It is designed to stay shut against the strong push of the
blood out to the body.

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's Heart Month!

Good Morning!

And it is a good morning. I'm sure you've had those mornings, too, when you're actually really thankful to wake up from a crazy, seemingly 'real life' dream. It usually takes a few moments to adjust to what is actually real, and remove yourself from the circumstances that you thought you were just in.....or am I the only one?

Anyway, I was happy to wake up to realize we were in actuality NOT preparing both Nate and Brady for surgery in an unknown hospital!

So, it's Heart Month! Yes, February is the month of love and valentines, cupids and chocolates, love notes and romantic dates (ha ha, maybe for some of you :)), but it's also the month that we devote to Hearts....and to the world of Congenital Heart Defects. Through out the month, I'll share some info about CHD, and hopefully some tips on Healthy Heart Living.

For example, did you know:

  • One to three of every 100 Canadian children are born with one or more types of CHD's.
  • More than 50% of all children born with congenital heart defect will require at least one invasive surgery in their lifetime.
  • There are more than 40 different types of congenital heart defects. Little is known about the cause of most of them. There is no known prevention or cure for any of them.
  • In the United States, twice as many children die from congenital heart defects each year than from all forms of childhood cancer combined.