Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Teeny-Tiny Heart ... Defect

Last month, we went to Teenybop's cardiology check-up. She's been going every year since she was an infant, because her doctor found out she had a heart murmur and it turned out to be ASD.

ASD stands for Atrial Septal Defect, and it's basically a very common condition involving a hole in the heart, tissue that should have developed but didn't. Like I said, it's common.

However, it's not common in my house. And we've had a pretty tough time with this thing up till now. At first, it was just a murmur. So I went to the first cardio appointment, where they did ultrasounds and echos and all that stuff. And then they come in and say, "Well, it's not just a murmur. It's a hole." So I'm holding my infant in my arms, and bawling because she's meant to have something in her heart, AND IT ISN'T THERE! I talked a lot to her doctor that day, learned everything that she would tell me while I was in the office. And then? Well, of course, I went home, hit google, and learned some more. Surprisingly, though, that didn't make me more scared. Fully understanding what was going on made me feel totally better. Even in the medical texts, everything I read was all about "oh it's common, a billion kids have it" and "it'll most likely heal right up on it's own."

Until the next appointment, just before she turned two. That was the one where they looked her over again, and then told me that it didn't look like she was going to "heal up" on her own. In fact, in looked like the hole was pretty big. IT LOOKED LIKE THE WALL THEY NEEDED DIDN'T JUST HAVE A HOLE. THE WALL WASN'T THERE.

The next year I went back, a few weeks before my little girl turned three. The checks were all redone, more ultrasounds, more echos. They looked hopefully for at least a little ridge of tissue, something they could work with, but there just wasn't anything useful there at all. All she had between the upper chambers of her heart was a little flap that we could see on the ultrasound screen, flopping back and forth between the chambers with the flow of her blood. It seemed like every year the doctors had something worse to say. That appointment was the one where they calmly told me that they didn't think the little "simple procedure" they had first told me about could be done. They thought the hole was too big, and that it was looking like we were headed for open-heart surgery. The doctor quietly told me as little as possible, trying hard not to scare me, but all I remember her saying was that we should try to wait as long as possible, give my daughter more time to grow before they opened her chest.

Grow? That was last year. Today, my daughter is four years old, just under three feet tall, and still five pounds shy of 40. Waiting for her to grow would be a long LONG while.

The most recent appointment followed a year of me praying for a miracle, praying that God would lay his hand on my daughter, put something in that damn hole, something that would take open-heart surgery with all it's risks and complications off the table. They did the echo. They did the ultrasound, and I struggled watching the screen, hoping to catch a glimpse of that little tiny flap ... only this time, I was hoping it'd be a huge, enormous flap. One that would magically grow around the hole, and close it up - no more worries.

Well, obviously, that wasn't the case. However, I didn't see the flap because although it hasn't gotten much bigger, there does appear to be some amount of tissue around the hole. So the open-heart is put aside for the moment. I did still end up bawling my eyes out though, because as I sat there watching the doctor come in the door of the exam room, tense and afraid, she came in with something of a shocker.

"Well, we think we're ready to fix this thing."

That's what she said. And I thought, "Oh God!" I felt my stomach flip, felt my heart trip and flop and clench. It was all I could do not to go ahead and start crying. I mean, I know this is simple, and that it's common, but it's my daughter. My baby. And though it's a simple surgery, it's still a surgery. It involves her being put to sleep, it involves an overnight hospital stay. It involves approximately three hours of me waiting in a stupid lobby, hoping like hell that I don't have to be the mom that watches the doctor walk out shaking his head in sorrow.

They think the little procedure will be fine, and Dr. Heartbeat brought in Dr. Surgeon to meet us. He explained the "procedure" what will be done, and in what order. He reassured me that he's done this a lot (I asked) and that he's comfy with his work (I asked that too). He also promised that the mortality with this little "procedure" is low (I asked), and that the likelihood of me taking my daughter home from the hospital only to have the plug-thing slip through and hurt her - or worse - is very low.

So I feel okay about the doctor. Feel okay, from a logical standpoint, about the procedure.

But in the middle of all that's gone on, it's just so much to take.

And even if my life were peachy keen with no problems whatsoever except for this one, I'm still sure it'd be just as hard to deal with.

Because it's my little daughter. My baby. My "Teenybop".

And there's still the chance that they'll go in, place the plug, and it'll slip through. Or the chance that they'll go in (the procedure is through the leg, much like a heart-cath), try to place the plug, and find that the hole is too big. That'll mean they did it for nothing, and that we're back to waiting.

I hate waiting.