A Heart In My Hands

EKG 001

That’s our new heart shape. It really doesn’t mean much to me. I don’t know how to read an ECG – electrocardiograph (a.k.a. EKG) recording. But, it means the world to me because this is the shape of Crash’s heartbeat when recorded by an ECG. If you know how to read these things, you’ll notice that’s it not normal. If you don’t know how to read it, I can tell you this is not what it’s supposed to look like.

If you haven’t yet read Crash’s arrival into this world, you can read With An Open Heart, here.

This past Wednesday we made a trip to the renowned IWK Children’s hospital in Halifax, three hours away. We’re country folk, so going to the big city is a big deal. We made sure to do a bit of shopping. But I’m not here to tell you about what we bought.

I’m here to tell you about what we saw.

A heartbeat.

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Crash had TGA – Transposition of the Great Arteries. It’s just a fancy way of saying his aorta and pulmonary arteries were switched. At just 5 days old, a surgeon put them in their right places. This meant open heart surgery, bypass machines, and a 16 day stay in the hospital.

Flash forward 8 years and he gets his routine check up only once every two years. While this is good news as it means he’s doing well, it makes his mother and I a bit nervous going that long between check-ups. These check-ups aren’t for him. They’re for his parents’ peace of mind.

Anyway, upon our arrival at the IWK, they take us to a small doctor’s room where his cardiologist comes to talk to us. He simply wants to know if we have any concerns. He asks Crash if he’s had problems with dizziness or fainting (nope). If he’s had problems with chest pain while exercising (nope). Then Crash is off to be measured.

Robot 8 year old

electrocardiogram

He’s 35 kg (77 lbs) and 44 inches tall. No failure to thrive here.  Then he gets stickered up for the ECG. We joked with him and called him robot baby like we did when he was just an infant and hooked up to a bazillion monitors. A minute later and was done. I barely had time to get this picture with the phone.

Then we were sent back to the room where we first spoke with the cardiologist. He informed us that all looked good. While the ECG wasn’t “normal” it was normal for him. No surprise. We always knew his version of normal wasn’t quite like everyone else. DW had the great idea to ask for a copy of Crash’s ECG. Then she mentioned making a tattoo out of it. You betcha! We now have a physical copy of our son’s heartbeat. I can hold his heart in my hands. I can wear his heart on my sleeve.

From there we went to yet another room for an echocardiogram.

When his aorta and pulmonary artery were switched 8 years ago, some stretching occurred (as was expected). Imagine what happens when you stretch a hose. I narrows. This was what they were looking at in the echo. They were making sure those arteries hadn’t narrowed further and that blood was flowing properly. Again, when I say properly I mean properly for someone with TGA. To our great relief, all was “normal”.

He even got cleared to join Tae Kwon Do.

Then Crash asked for a picture with Dr. Wong. Perhaps a hero. Or, at least, an idol. Crash wants it printed and put in a golden frame.

Crash and Dr. Wong

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A Heart Lesson and a Check-up

*This article originally aired on November 8,2013. Over 2 years later, we are headed to the Pediatric Cardiologist for a check-up. I will let you know how it goes tomorrow. We’ll be on the road traveling for the next 6 hours. For now, I’ll leave you with Crash’s last Cardio visit.

Heart lesson: the two top “chambers” are  the left and right atrium. The bottom “chambers” are the left and right ventricles. The lines separating the atrium from ventricles are the Mitral valve and Tricuspid valve. Those valves open and close to let blood flow through as the heart beats and pumps it through. Or at least that’s how I understand it. I’m not a doctor.

This isn’t Crash’s heart. But this is what Crash’s heart looks like on an echo scan. You can clearly see the   valves separating the atrium from the ventricles. Crash’s doctors are keeping an eye on the tricuspid and mitral valves because there some regurgitation. This simply means that the valves aren’t closing completely. Therefore, some blood flows backward into his heart. However, what they are mostly concerned with is his aorta and pulmonary artery. They are making sure they are not narrowing, which is something that can happen after the surgery that he did at 5 days old. But just like he has for the last 6 years, he rocked his cardio check-up! The regurgitation is minimal and always has been. The aorta and pulmonary artery haven’t narrowed. He is thriving, now standing at 3′ 11″ tall and  61 pounds. We found all this out yesterday from his cardiologist at the IWK… Dr. Kenny Wong (joined yesterday by Dr. Matthew Woo).  Dr. Wong was impressed enough that he doesn’t need to see him again for 2 years! For the last 3 years we visited Dr. Wong once a year for Crash’s check up. Crash always amazes me while we’re there. The child who is normally loud and rambunctious as most boys are (noise with dirt as we typically describe them) was calm, quiet and patient while they did his EKG and again during the echo. Thank you Crash! I kind of liked his yearly check ups. We always used them as an excuse to get out of town and visit family we don’t get to see often. Guess we’ll have to find a new excuse… Daddy needs new running shoes? Mommy wants to go to the K-cup store?

On another note, I was terrified thinking about how Bang would behave during Crash’s EKG and Echo. I was relieved that he wanted to be held while we were in the patient room for the EKG. He watched with curiosity what they were doing to his big “bubby”. Then in the patient room for the echo, they turned the lights down to see the monitor better. Bang took that as his cue to snuggle in and fall asleep in my arms. Whew. I got to watch the whole thing! I was afraid Bang would get restless and have to go run and play and I would miss the best part. Thank you Bang!

The 2 and a half hour night time drive home with 2 sick kids (the oldest with a bad cold and the youngest with a fever) is a story for another blog.