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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Surgery on a baby's grape-sized heart

Here's another miraculous baby story I thought would be a nice addition to my two earlier posts. Perhaps it's because I'm a mother-to-be that such stories capture my attention a little more. But I think that I noticed them for much the same reasons that anyone else would notice them: they're simply amazing. For me, they also illustrate (not demonstrate--see comments on the significance of the seemingly miraculous) that life and death are in the hands of a sovereign, omnipotent and all-loving God.

"Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil.
...his days are determined, the number of his months is with Thee,
and his limits Thou has set so that he cannot pass." ~ Job 14:1, 5

"I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well." ~ Psalm 139:14

17 Feb 2005 (CNN) -- The pediatric surgeon who performed open-heart surgery on a one-week-old baby with a heart the size of a grape said Thursday it was "a wonderful feeling" to be able to save his life.

Surgeons at Stanford University's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital believe that Jerrick De Leon, born more than 13 weeks early, is the smallest baby ever to survive an open-heart procedure called an arterial switch.

The hospital said Jerrick is expected to have a normal life, barring any medical complications from his premature birth. It said he will be placed on antibiotics as a precaution.

At the time of his operation, on February 6, Jerrick weighed just over 1.5 pounds (700 grams), said his surgeon, Dr. V. Mohan Reddy. Reddy, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery and a professor at Stanford's medical school, specializes in performing surgery on extremely small infants.

Reddy said he knew he could repair the type of heart defect the baby had, but "the complicating fact was the baby was too small and very, very premature."

Still, Reddy said he was "very confident I would be able to take care of this baby."

Jerrick was airlifted to the hospital from southern California on February 4. His mother, Maria Lourdes De Leon, a pediatric physician herself, said Jerrick's doctors had given him no chance of survival.

"It was very difficult. I was surrendering to whatever comes," she told reporters at a news conference with Reddy.
The hospital has been doing similar surgeries for 12 years, and its surgeons have performed more than 150 in children weighing under about 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms).

Amazing as Jerrick's case, he is not the smallest baby Dr. Reddy has succesfully operated on. In 2001, Serena Brown, one of a set of triplets born prematurely on Dec. 27 (at only 25 weeks of gestation) was diagnosed almost immediately after birth with a rare congenital heart abnormality called total anomalous pulmonary venous return, in which the veins connecting her lungs to her heart were attached to the wrong side of the heart. This meant that oxygen-rich blood from her lungs was not circulating efficiently to the rest of her body. The condition was not related to her prematurity.

The only thing keeping her alive was a naturally occurring hole between the two halves of the heart, which normally seals itself soon after birth. To correct the condition, Reddy re-attached the veins to the correct side of the heart and sealed the hole.

"The operation gives her a chance," Reddy said shortly after the surgery. "Otherwise there is a 100 percent risk of death. Her prognosis now should be like any other 25-week premature baby. There are a lot of hoops she's going to have to jump through, and lung problems can be an issue." (Information extracted from mednews.stanford.edu)

Like Serena today, Jerrick's prognosis is good, with a normal life expectancy. Dr. Reddy says, "The baby will probably do well, go home and lead a happy life with his parents." May it be so.

* Thanks to Just Jane for the teddy bear divider


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We finally got a chance to see your blog. The baby photos are great. You both are very blessed.

Gary & Carol

2:48 PM  

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