Cardiology appointment, surgery details, and specific prayer requests

Matthew’s cardiology appointment went very well yesterday. We were able to see Dr. Anderson, who was very good to us when Matthew was a newborn in the NICU. Matthew was up to about 11 1/2 pounds! I guess if you need to gain weight, continually pumping in a high-calorie formula all night long is the way to go!

All of the cardiologists and surgeons met on Tuesday to discuss Matthew’s case, and Dr. Anderson said everyone was in agreement that Matthew is a great candidate for surgery. He also said, “We are all astounded by Matthew, and he is a real inspiration to us. He has given us all a lot of hope.”

Dr. Anderson also emphasized the magnitude of the surgery. Even though they expect that Matthew will do well, there are still a lot of risks. There is about a 20% chance that the heart’s electrical conduction system will be damaged during surgery. If it is, he will need a pacemaker, which means another surgery within a week after the first. The pacemaker would be a permanent, life-long part of Matthew’s life, and is not without complication either. We’re asking for specific prayers that the surgery goes as well as it can, and that the heart’s conduction system can be preserved.

During the surgery, his heart will be stopped and he will be placed on a heart/lung bypass machine. The hope is that the surgery can be accomplished with Matthew spending less than 2 hours on the bypass machine, because babies who have more than 2 hours of bypass have more complications.

The surgery will be 3-fold:

  • patch the hole between the top chambers of the heart
  • patch the hole between the bottom chambers of the heart
  • “split” the common valve in the middle of the heart into two, functional valves

Patching the holes is fairly routine, but separating the valve can be tricky and complicated. One of the most common complications of the surgery is that the valves leak or become stiff, requiring a valve replacement years down the road.

Dr. Anderson said the surgery usually takes about 6 hours, from the time we kiss him and send him off, to when we can see him in recovery. And, we can expect about a 2-week hospital stay if all goes well.

For those of you interested in more of the medical information, click on the “Complete AV Canal” link. This is a web site that explains the defect and the repair very well (Matthew has the “complete” version of the defect), and has pictures that help explain it all.  (Click on the little “Graphic Summary” icon for pictures.)  The difference between the descriptions and Matthew’s heart, is that Matthew’s heart is “unbalanced.” That means the left side of his heart is still just a little small (“on the lower-limits of normal”), and his right side is quite enlarged.

Surprisingly, Dr. Anderson said this is not as concerning as it sounds. Once the defect is repaired and the blood is all flowing where it is supposed to flow, the heart generally evens-out over time.

Surgery is still scheduled for May 7th. We appreciate all of your prayers, especially for Matthew to stay healthy until the surgery, and that all of the specific aspects of the surgery go as well as they can.

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