Please be gentle....I dug out this scrapbook page from my first scrapbook for Dad's story...it's from the era of fancy corner punches, stickers, and for me, also known as my Flat Years, lol. However it accomplished what I needed...it had the details & date for the story, so it's a successful page. Since the subject matter is now 15, you can imagine how helpful that was...
So let's assume today you did not come here for Art as in the viewing kind, but for Art in the form of a good story....Dad just wrote this the other day so it's brand new! Enjoy!
Déjà-vuby Bruce H. Mero
Within a few minutes of hanging up the phone, the irony began to set in for Gretchen and I. Mitra had just called. She'd taken Lexi to a specialist to check out a heart murmur that their pediatrician had spotted earlier. Rather than "keep an eye on it" as the doctor suggested, Mitra had a hunch and asked for a referral to a specialist.
Somewhat emotionally, but matter-of-factly, Mitra described the diagnosis. Lexi's heart murmur was called Patent ductus arteriosus. She would need heart surgery.
The National Institute of Health describes Patent ductus arteriosus as a heart problem that occurs soon after birth in some babies, where abnormal blood flow occurs between two of the major arteries connected to the heart. Before birth, this blood flow is an essential part of fetal blood circulation. Shortly after birth, this vessel normally closes as a part of the changes occurring in the baby's circulation. In some babies, however, this duct between the arteries remains open, allowing oxygen-rich blood to mix with oxygen-poor blood, putting a strain on the heart and increasing pressure in the lung arteries.
The heart murmur that Lexi's pediatrician had heard was the gurgle of blood mixing in that duct. The surgery she needed would close that connection.
To Gretchen and I, the irony in Lexi's diagnosis was palpable. Mitra had the same issue as a child and spent a week in the pediatric ward at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital in Syracuse, where she underwent heart surgery to correct the condition.
Mitra's maternal hunch that Lexi had the same thing causing the murmur was spot on. How fortunate that Mitra made that connection?
Mitra's condition scared the be jeepers out of us. She'd been a sickly child, but because we were on the move so much during that time (Tehran, Kerman, Oneida, Managua, Oneida, Vernon and Sherrill) we didn't have a steady pediatrician for her until we finally settled in Lee Center. Our new neighbor, Annie, suggested a doctor she'd used for her kids. Within a couple of appointments with Dr. Bennett, we were told that Mitra had a heart murmur. She was four years old. Her frequent illnesses might be the result of that murmur, he thought and recommended an immediate referral to a pediatric heart specialist in Syracuse. Patent ductus arteriosus was the diagnosis. Surgery was the only remedy...sooner rather than later. The murmur had been with her since birth and her health would only decline further if the murmur was not fixed. Gretchen and I were in a kind of denial and sought a second opinion at the Buffalo Children's Hospital. Mitra's diagnosis did not change.
Etched in my memory forever is the sight of our little girl immediately after surgery. It is the scariest moment I have ever experienced. Mitra's color was ashen. Her chest heaved and contorted as her sedated little body tried to get air. The surgeon had split her open, breast to shoulder blade, separated ribs and collapsed a lung to get at her heart. There the physician tied a surgical knot around the offending duct and pulled it tight, then stitched her closed. The nurses had her under an oxygen tent and connected to a ventilator to re-inflate the lung. An IV tube connected her little hand to a bottle of fluid hung over the bed. I cried. Gretchen cried. What a horrible experience we had just put our baby through.
Before her surgery, Gretchen sewed a pink teddy bear for Mitra. We called the teddy bear Oso. During the bear's construction, Gretchen stitched a little candy heart into Oso's chest. We gave her the bear just before surgery. She hugged that little Oso tightly as she slept.
Observing our angst, her nurse, David, gave us a hug and promised that in just a couple of days Mitra would be running down the hall to the playroom, she would improve so quickly.
True to David's word, that actually happened. He had wheeled her there on day two and day three. From then on, no wheelchair was needed. On day four she trotted down the hall to the toys, IV cart in tow and hospital gown flapping behind.
About day four also, she refused to let the nurse give her a shot for pain. Mitra hated the injections more that the pain. No more shots. The IV came out around the same time.
Gretchen stayed at the hospital with Mitra most nights. Fortunately, Crouse Irving was near Syracuse University, so she was very familiar with the amenities in the neighborhood. That gave Gretchen a break from hospital food and allowed a bit of outside exercise when Mitra slept.
I had to return to work at Griffiss Air Force Base after a couple of days. My boss was sympathetic to my situation, however. He gave me time off frequently, so I was able to drive to Syracuse in the afternoon most days to spend time with my girls. My boss also told the Base Commander about Mitra's surgery and he, in turn, asked the Red Cross to dedicate the next scheduled blood drive on base to our little girl. Later that week I discovered a huge stuffed dog on my desk when I went into my office. A tag on the dog's collar stated his name was Griff and that he belonged to Mitra. Of course, Griff was a hit and shared the hospital bed with Mitra and Oso, though that little pink bear was her very best pal. Early on, Mitra had discovered the little candy heart inside of Oso and a pink stain soon emerged on the bear's chest where Mitra sucked the sugar out of the candy until it disappeared.
When she wasn't in the toy room, Gretchen tried to keep her down by reading stories to her. One of the books she read was by Dr Seuss called Green Eggs and Ham. Mitra's reaction to the story was immediately visceral...she puked all over David. Gretchen blames herself for the incident by feeding her a bad milkshake. Mitra insists it was the book. To this day she hates that story. She was not the least bit remorseful for puking on David. Mitra admitted years later that she really wasn't particularly fond of David. He was responsible for her daily Physical Therapy, which involved thumping on her chest to relieve lung congestion from the surgery. It was more reviled than the painful injections. David was hardly her favorite.
After a week we went back home. It took much effort on Gretchen's part to keep her from opening her stitches. Mitra was feeling so much better that she wanted to experience all of the kid stuff she'd missed when she was so sick. After a couple of follow-up visits with the surgeon in Syracuse, Mitra was declared completely cured. In fact the Dr's office sent us a letter to that end...no physical restrictions whatsoever.
Twenty plus years later Mitra and Nate faced the same conundrum. Mitra's hunch that Lexi might suffer from Patent ductus arteriosus was confirmed. (Girls, incidentally, are twice as likely as boys to have this problem, according to the National Institute of Health. Lucas was subsequently rested for the condition. No murmur was found.)
Lexi would need surgery to correct the condition. Ironically, it was at the same hospital, Crouse Irving Memorial. It may have been the same pediatric ward. David was gone, however, but Lexi took her favorite stuffed toy, a bear named Doby. A handmade Oso with a candy heart, sewed by Grandma Gretch, found its way to the hospital bed, but Doby remained her favorite once the candy was sucked out. During her short stay at Crouse Irving, Mitra also read her Green Eggs and Ham. Lexi did not puke.
Two decades had profoundly changed the medical procedure to fix the murmur. Rather than the chest incision, rib parting and lung collapsing horror that her mom faced, Lexi had a catheter inserted into a large blood vessel in her groin, which was then guided into the unclosed duct in Lexi's heart. A small metal coil was then passed through the catheter and inserted into the duct, eventually blocking the blood flow and fixing the problem. Lexi and her parents spent the night in the hospital. She was released the next day. Her cure from Patent ductus arteriosus is complete.
Mom and Dad were just as terrified as Gretchen and I prior to surgery. We were there and saw it on their faces. It is not something any parent foresees for their child, nor should have to deal with. We could also detect a confidence in both of those guys that day, however. That confidence was a result of having been there once before and experienced a positive outcome...déjà-vu.