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Owen’s Story

Owen was born sept 25,2012 with an unbalanced AVSD in Saskatoon. We had found out at our 20 week ultrasound that Owens heart was small and that there was a hole in it, requiring Owen to be born at RUH with access to the NICU. At 2 days of age Owen was transferred by air ambulance to the Stollery in Edmonton where his heart team was deciding if Owens left side of his heart was big enough to be a two ventricle heart or if he was going to have a one ventricle heart requiring the Norwood procedure.

Owen had his first open heart surgery when he was 11 days old to repair his AVSD and to create 2 valves – the mitral and tricuspid valves. The team decided that his left ventricle was big enough to function as a two ventricle heart. After a few months in the NICU in both Edmonton and Saskatoon, Owen was able to come home but couldn’t eat on his own so he had to be fed through a feeding tube in his nose.

Feeding was a struggle; Owen wouldn’t breastfeed or take a bottle. He was fed through the NG tube until his next surgery.

Owen had his 2nd open heart surgery in August of 2013 when he was 11 months old to repair the two valves that they had created, as they were leaking. Owen recovered well from this surgery but we knew repairing the valves was only a short term solution.

Owen had his 3rd open heart surgery just shy of his 3rd birthday in August of 2015. Dr. Rebekya replaced his mitral valve with a mechanical one. Owen is now on Warfarin to prevent any blood clots from forming on the valve. As a result of where the electrical system is in the heart, when the mechanical valve was placed it cut off the electrical system telling his heart when to beat, placing him in complete heart block. Owen had surgery for a permanent pacemaker a week later. This was a long hospital stay for Owen and he wasn’t really well when we left the hospital. He wouldn’t eat, started losing weight and was throwing up. After numerous echo’s postoperatively, Owens heart team in Saskatoon (Dr. Kakadakar, Dr. Pharis, and Dr. Pockett) found that there was a large VSD that was created accidentally at the time the mechanical valve was placed.

Owen went for his 4th open heart surgery 2 months later in October 2015 when he was 3 years old to fix the VSD that was created during the previous surgery. The hole was the size of the Dr. Rebekya’s thumb nail. Owen recovered really well after this surgery and was surgery free for 2 years (the goal was supposed to be no more surgeries until he was a teenager to replace the mechanical valve with a bigger one).

During the Summer of 2017 at one of Owen’s echo appointments Dr. Kakadakar saw that there was a build up of scar tissue under his aortic valve causing him to have higher pressures in his heart. If this was left untreated the narrowing would cut off the blood supply going to his heart and body.

Owen had his 5th open heart surgery in December of 2017 when he was 5 years old. Dr. Rebekya removed a large amount of scar tissue and also some heart muscle to make this area bigger to prevent any further narrowing in the future. Owen was only in the hospital for 4 days after this surgery as everything went well and he was recovering nicely.

Owens next anticipated surgeries will be a day surgery in 5 years to replace his pacemaker battery, and another open heart when he’s a teenager to replace the mechanical valve with a larger one. If the narrowing does return under his aortic valve he will need open heart surgery sooner to place a mechanical aortic valve to make the area bigger.

We currently travel to Saskatoon for Owens echo’s and pacemaker checks every 4-6months. We also make a trip to Edmonton once a year to meet with KIDCLOT who manage Owens warfarin. We have a point of care machine at home where we monitor his INR every 1-2 weeks and self adjust his warfarin.

IMG_6947.JPGToday Owen is thriving, he is 5 years old. He is in nursery school, Ukrainian dance, Gymnastics and baseball. He enjoys swimming, biking, climbing and tormenting his brother and sister. When you look at him you’d never know what he has been through.

Thank you to our heart team in Saskatoon – Dr.Kakadakar, Dr. Pharis, Dr. Pockett, Dr. Robinson, Marie, Angela, and Bob!

Scout’s Story

Scout Cowan was diagnosed with TGA, PDA & ASD.
When Scout was 8 weeks old I noticed he wasn’t thriving. He was only 9lbs at his 6 week appointment and his birth weight was 8lbs13oz. It wasn’t until 8 weeks when the family doctor noticed the blue tint in his face. From the doctor’s office we were then rushed to Regina (3.5hours away) by ambulance stopping in Estevan to pick up a paramedic.
Scout’s oxygen was only reading 63%. Once we were in Regina it was mayhem. Nobody knew or had seen a baby with such low Oxygen days. After many tests, the Cardiologist ( who just happened to be in Regina) gave us the diagnosis.
We were in shock and sick with fear.
We spent the night in Regina NICU and then headed to Saskatoon the next day. Scout was scheduled for a Cardiac Cath procedure which would keep him alive until he could have the big surgery as the hole in his heart which was keeping him alive was almost closed over. First thing in the morning Scout was prepped for surgery and we waited outside the operating room. The cardiologist burst through the doors and said, “Stop! They want Scout in Edmonton as soon as possible!” It was a scene straight out of Hollywood!
So off we headed to Edmonton (12 hours away from home.) We arrived Friday night and Scout was first case Monday morning as his surgery at this point was an emergency. Dr.Ross performed the surgery and 8 hrs later Scout came out hooked to many many tubes and machines, one included the L – VAD. He was then put into his own special room in PICU. We were told prior that these rooms were only for severely critical cases. Scout spent 12 days on the LVAD to which another surgery was needed to remove it.
Scout developed a severe case of Chylothorax to which he had two large chest tubes. We had many complications with tubes being ripped out which resulted in a collapsed lung and several more nights back in PICU. Along the way Scout developed a clot in his leg which led to blood thinners. After 2 months in Edmonton we were released. Scout still needed two needles of blood thinner a day for the next few months, which I administered. Scout was breast fed prior to being diagnosed so therefore I pumped while were in hospital. It wasn’t until 4 months later he was able to nurse again. We traveled back to Edmonton 2 months later to meet with the thrombosis team to find out the clot was gone!
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Scout only sees a paediatrician once a year as well as the cardiologist once a year! We were extremely fortunate our family doctor picked up on this and we are so blessed to have the outcome we did. Scout is now going to be 7 years old and is a thriving little boy!

Chloe’s Story

Chloe was born on December 17, 2008 at 7 lbs 1 oz.  She had a heart murmur but they said it is common in infants and often closes up overnight (which happened with our first child). The next day, the murmur was still there.  They got an echo done of her heart. The technician wanted a second opinion.  Luckily, the pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Tyrell, was in the hospital for a heart clinic that day (they are only in Regina a few times a month). 

Dr Tyrell had a look and told us that Chloe had Truncus Arteriosus, which is the same CHD that my husband’s older brother was born with. 

We were shocked – my brother in law has Truncus Arteriosus but he has 6 children, all with healthy hearts. 

And strangely enough, Dr Tyrell had been his doctor.  Basically Chloe’s pulmonary artery and aorta were connected where they met the heart in one big valve (like a tree trunk with branches coming off of it). She would need surgery fairly soon.

As we waited for surgery, we worried whenever she cried as her oxygen levels would dip. Finally, at 6 weeks old we took Chloe to Edmonton to the Stollery Children’s Hospital for her first open heart surgery.

Dr Rebecca performed the surgery and everything went well.  We stayed there for about 10 days and then were transferred to the hospital in Regina for a couple of days before going home with strict guidelines to wean her off of a couple of diuretics and morphine.  She would need to continue to take aspirin daily to prevent her body from clotting in her new conduit/valve.

When Chloe was about 2 years old, she had a cardiac catheterization to buy some more time until her next surgery.  They had said at her first surgery that the conduit they put in wouldn’t grow with her and that as she grew it would narrow, requiring another surgery.  They had estimated we would have 5-10 years.  However, Chloe was growing fast – in the 98th percentile and very active.  They did the cardiac cath to widen the conduit a little.

When she was almost 4 years old, she started to tire very easily and her lips would turn bluish if she was running around lots or working hard.  We were sent off to Edmonton again for her second open heart surgery. This time we were able to stay in the Ronald McDonald House and what a blessing that was.  We went up a few days before surgery for an MRI and pre-op tests.  And we spent the days before surgery visiting every park close by that we could because Chloe knew she would not be able to do the monkey bars for 6 weeks after her surgery.

She recovered very quickly from the surgery and very shortly after surgery she was wanting “real food” -not just sips of water and an occasional popsicle.  We were able to go home after just 7 days! She is one determined and tough young lady.

Since her last surgery, Chloe has been doing exceptionally well.  If you didn’t know, most of the time you wouldn’t be able to tell she has a heart defect.IMG_7313.JPGShe is now 9 years old and very active.  She loves the monkey bars, trampoline, bike rides, gymnastics and art.

In the fall of 2017, she started to get recurring fevers for no apparent reason.  She didn’t feel sick and would be fine all day and then get a fever for a few hours in the evening.  This happened for awhile and couldn’t see anything wrong.  One night we took her to the ER and they ran tests but didn’t see anything concerning and told us it was probably a virus.  But it wasn’t going away.  I took her to the pediatrician, who examined her and talked to the cardiologist in Saskatoon.  They suspected she had endocarditis (an infection in her heart), but the blood cultures had not shown anything.  We immediately drove up to Saskatoon.

In Saskatoon, they did another echo, a transesophogial echo, and blood cultures every 8 hours for 24 hours.  Finally, one of the blood cultures came back positive and they knew exactly what bacteria they were dealing with.  There was a higher gradient (higher pressure) in her conduit, so they were guessing that was where the infection had “set up camp”.  

They put a PICC line in Chloe’s arm and we started IV antibiotics.  We stayed in Saskatoon for about a week, and then went home on IV antibiotics for 5 more weeks.  I had to learn how to use the IV pump and give her her medications.  She had two different antibiotics and we had to give her an IV 7 times a day.  The hardest part for Chloe seemed to be missing gymnastics.

Now the infection seems to have cleared and she is back to doing gymnastics. She is one of the strongest people I know.

While our journey has not been easy, it has taught us greater patience, strength and faith.  It has made Chloe the kind, strong and compassionate girl she is.  It has taught us to cherish the little things and celebrate our family.

Hailey’s Story

Hailey has an older brother and sister.  Her older sister has a CHD called Truncus Arteriosus.  Because her sister has a heart defect, they did a thorough fetal echo when I was pregnant with Hailey and she was diagnosed before she was born with a CHD called Tetralogy of Fallot. 

At about 10 weeks old, we took Hailey to Edmonton for heart surgery.  They had waited until she was a bit bigger to do surgery, but couldn’t wait too long as her blood oxygen saturation would keep getting worse. We went to Edmonton thinking that she would get a full repair and probably wouldn’t need another surgery for quite a few years.  

The day before surgery as they were doing the echo and other pre-op tests, they discovered that Hailey had a tumor on her adrenal gland.  They decided to go ahead with surgery the next day, but to do what is called a BT shunt instead of the full repair.  This would help her body cope better and get more oxygen, but was only a temporary fix until they could figure out what was going on with the tumor.

We waited in Edmonton for a week or two after surgery.  Then Hailey had an abdominal surgery to remove the tumor.  They said it was about 5.5 inches across! I don’t know how that big thing fit in her little tummy, but we were so glad they got it all out.  They discovered that

the tumor was cancerous and was called a Neuroblastoma. 

Her liver was affected a little, but they were hopeful and said that if the patient is diagnosed so early and they get the main tumor out, 95% of the time everything else fades away on its own with time.  

We went back to Regina and saw the oncologist there.  We would go in for frequent blood and urine tests, and ultrasounds.  Her liver got larger and the cancer was not going away on its own.  We had to go up to Saskatoon and Hailey got a port put in so it would be easier to receive chemotherapy.  

In March of 2011, when Hailey was 6 months old, she received one round of chemo.  Then again in April she received a round of chemo (each three days).  We continued to monitor her and in May they saw no more signs of the cancer! We were so happy.  Now we just had to wait for her next heart surgery.

Before we had a surgery date, Hailey started to throw up green bile.  She couldn’t keep anything down and could not have a bowel movement.  We were admitted to the hospital in Regina.  They did an ultrasound and found that she had a bowel obstruction most likely caused by scar tissue from her previous abdominal surgery catching on the bowel and twisting it (this is called “adhesions’). 

Hailey was taken by air ambulance to Edmonton where they did an emergency surgery to correct the bowel obstruction.  She recovered quite quickly and was happy again in no time.  However, her oxygen saturations were still low (in the 60’s – most people are high 90’s to 100).  We stayed in the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton for a few weeks and then they got Hailey in for her second open heart surgery.

After surgery, she got something called Chylothorax and had to be put onto a low fat diet for 6 weeks for it to heal properly.  At the time, she was solely breastfed and did not like bottles at all, so she refused to take the low fat formula called monogen.  I don’t blame her, it smelled awful.  They put in an NG tube to feed her.  After the first few weeks of doing tube feeds, she got desperate enough that she started to take it by bottle. That problem was resolved and we went back to life as normal – or as normal as we had had in a long while.  

Eventually her hair IMG_7315started to grow back in and she remains cancer free to this day.  Hailey is now almost 8 and we go in for a yearly cancer check up but things are looking good.  She will eventually need a valve replacement and possibly another surgery, but she is able to do so many things other kids her age can do.  She loves to swim, play outside, play at the park, do gymnastics and soccer.  She is a little comedian and loves music and crafts.  

Our two heart warriors have pushed us to be strong and patient and have more faith.  Our journey has not been easy, but it has been worth it to see them grow so much and overcome all of their obstacles.  They are two of the strongest people I know.  They are my heroes.