Sunday, January 18, 2009

Max's heart

Max is taking the day off today to rest up for his surgery tomorrow, but I thought I'd try to share with you what the cardiologist explained to us about the heart defect Max has and how he will fix it. Think back to your high school or college biology or anatomy class and you may remember that your heart has two arteries where the blood leaves it. The pulmonary artery takes blood to the lungs so it can be oxygenated. The aorta takes oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. As fetuses, we all have one artery coming from our heart and it splits into two as our heart develops. In some cases, such as Max's, the artery doesn't split. There is also a large hole between the two chambers of the heart, but I guess that is a good thing if you have truncus (the short name for Max's heart defect). Anyway, instead of working the way it should, Max's unoxygenated and oxygenated blood are mixing together, with some going out to the body and some going to the lungs. He also has just one exiting valve, since he has just one exiting artery.

So, during the surgery Monday, the doctors will repair the hole between the heart chambers and give him a valve and a shunt that will take blood to the lungs. They'll use his existing artery and valve for his aorta, because that one needs to be the strongest. For the other valve and the shunt, they will use a donor valve and artery or a certain type of cow blood vessel that has a valve built in. Either one will not grow with Max, so he will need about three more surgeries to put in bigger valves and vessels as he grows. Although, researches are close to being able to grow body parts from peoples own cells, so Max may be able to eventually have his own valve and pulmonary artery grown and installed and that would grow with him. (If anyone is interested, I have a news clip about regenerative medicine that I can e-mail to you. Maybe someone who is more technological than I am could even figure out how to link it to this blog.)

After the surgery, Max will be pretty sick for a few days and will be kept heavily sedated. We should start seeing improvement by the end of the week and then he will get to start eating a little. So far he has just had an IV for nutrition, so we'll need to get that little stomach and intestines working by slowly easing him into food. Michele has been freezing her breast milk, so they will be able to feed him some of that, which will help him build up some immunity. He'll probably get tube feedings at first until he is strong enough to start sucking.

Hopefully I have remembered all of this correctly. There was a lot of information to take in. If anyone else notices any misinformation, please let me know.

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