Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Heart Conditions That Shaped His Personality

Alex shares his preexisting heart conditions, including surgery for a pacemaker, that he has learned to live with since he was born.

Heart Conditions That Shaped His Personality

Throughout my entire life I have not been medically sound. It has always been something that I have been ok with, somewhat proud of really. I am different and I realize this, for the most part it just means that I cannot compete when it comes to physical activity. I have to do things at my own pace. Also it means I have a bunch of badass scars. I feel that having to go through so many different medical procedures has shaped my personality as well, and I am happy with who I am so even if things were different, I would not have had it any other way.

Before I was born in October of 1990 my parents knew that I was going to have cardiac issues. I was prenatally diagnosed with a hypoplastic right ventricle, a straddling tricuspid valve and pulmonary stenosis. In non-medical jargon, my right ventricle was underdeveloped and the tricuspid valve, which separates the right ventricle and atrium, was abnormal. My pulmonary valve, which allows non-oxygenated blood to travel from the right ventricle to the lungs, was narrower than it should have been.

When I was born no surgeries were needed-- well, at least not yet. My body was small enough at the time that my malformed “ticker” could manage to pump enough blood through it to keep me living. As I began to grow though, my heart would not be able to transport enough oxygen through my body and my heart would need to be operated on. In March of 1992 and in October of 1992, Dr. Norwood performed the parts of the Fontan procedure that I needed (the approach section of the wikipedia article for the Fontan Procedure describes the surgery in manageable terms and provides a picture if you are interested in how my heart currently functions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontan_procedure).

From then on, I was in the hospital every four years or so for any number of things. I had stainless steel coils placed in my heart twice because there were holes in my septum. I had an electrophysiological study done where doctors shocked my heart into a normal rhythm. Also a stent was placed into the inferior vena cava part of my Fontan. In the cardiac catheterization lab, Dr. Rome did all of those procedures I just spoke of and they were all just overnight stays. When I was 17, just months after my stent was placed, Dr. Gaynor implanted my pacemaker. I was at CHOP for 17 days for that surgery because I had fluid buildup around my lungs.

Hopefully, I will not have to have another cardiac related surgery until I need my pacemaker batteries changed, but we will see.

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