Monday, May 26, 2014

A Tale of Two Heart Patients

In the last month, Haitian Hearts has brought two patients to the United States for heart surgery. Daniel and Princess are both from Port-au-Prince and both have heart problems. There are other similarities in there cases, but also differences.

Daniel is 33 years old. He contracted rheumatic fever, which damaged his heart valve. In 2001, John brought him up and he had valve repair surgery in Peoria. Daniel is a quiet, prayerful man, who imbues those around his with his faith.

Princess is five and a half months old. She was born with a congenital heart defect called AV canal. With this defect, there is a hole between the upper two chambers of the heart and a hole between the lower two chambers of the heart. Despite her impaired health, Princess was a bubbly, smiling baby who charmed all in her path.

About nine months ago, Daniel began calling John, telling him that he was having difficulty breathing. On one of his trips to Haiti, John examined Daniel and sent him for an echocardiogram. His heart repair was failing and he likely needed an artificial valve.

When John was in Haiti in February, Princess's parents brought their daughter to John for examination. With a respiratory rate of 60 a minute and a heart rate of 150 a minute, Princess had been in and out of hospitals during her short life. John prescribed some lasix for her to get rid of fluid and help her breathe.

Back in the States, John searched for hospitals for his two patients. He presented Daniel to multiple hospitals. Daniel was accepted by Swedish Medical Center in Denver. John presented Princess to hospitals in four countries: Israel, the Dominican Republic, Canada, and the United States. She was accepted by Nationwide Children's in Columbus, Ohio.

Daniel flew to Denver in April. He had successful heart surgery and is now in the process of getting the proper amount of blood thinners into his system. Blood likes to clot around artificial surfaces, so Daniel will take blood thinners for the rest of his life.

Princess's heart surgery last week appeared to be successful. But several hours after surgery, her little heart, which during the months of her short life before surgery had to tolerate improper blood flow, gave out and she didn't survive.

Two patients, two different outcomes. We celebrate Daniel's new healthy life, while we grieve precious Princess. It's especially painful and unnatural when babies, who are so new and fresh to this world, die.

Daniel and Princess shared one more similarity.

If Daniel had been prescribed a few pennies worth of penicillin when he contracted strep throat, he wouldn't have gotten rheumatic fever and damaged heart valves. In the developed world, Princess's heart defect could have been diagnosed in utero. She would have had surgery a few weeks after birth, before her heart changed so much to accommodate the unhealthy blood flow.

Both Daniel and Princess were both victims of poverty.