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Our Daughter's Heart Condition

By Barb Burke

Our daughter's first three years were spent in a Chinese orphanage, sharing a crib with another child. She remembers covering this child up at night with a blanket. She joined our family at the age of three, in the summer of 1995.

She was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition known as Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). It is characterized by a hole of varying sizes between the left and right ventricles of the heart chambers. VSD, if left untreated can eventually lead to pulmonary vascular disease and other complications, so we knew we had to get her to the States and into surgery as soon as possible. Knowing this before she was adopted, we consulted with the pediatric cardiologist at our Army Medical Center. He helped us considerably, by requesting and evaluating her medical data, and then setting us up with a date for the surgery to be performed at the Children's Hospital. Six weeks after her arrival in the United States, she was in for open heart surgery.

Our Daughter's Surgery

In the hospital.Expecting a long and potentially dangerous surgery, we checked into the hospital and registered to stay at a Ronald McDonald House. Our daughter was remarkably composed, considering the fact that she was so timid when she was first brought home. The surgery went very fast. She was in and out in an hour, and the surgeon explained that it was very routine. They had sewn in a "gortex" patch over the hole. My husband and I were with our daughter in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) when I noticed our daughter was having difficulty breathing. I brought this to the attention of the ICU nurse who contacted the doctor and X-ray's were taken of her chest. They put her under again and inserted a chest tube to relieve pressure in her lungs. They believe the surgeon had punctured her lung during surgery.

Out of Intensive Care

Chris in the hospital.When our daughter was considered stable, she was transfered to the pediatric ward to continue her convalescence from the surgery. She was a brave girl, throughout her recovery, but again developed breathing difficulty. I saw her distress and quickly called for help. The staff was unsure what was wrong and again, quickly took x-rays. This time there appeared to be nothing wrong on the x-rays. The doctors checked the machine that connected her to the chest tube and found a blockage in the tube. They unblocked the tube and made the decision to insert a second chest tube as a back-up, in case this happened again. Thankfully, that was the last time it happened. We kept a close eye on her, and in three days, she was ready to be discharged. The operation was considered a complete success and she was given a prognosis of a normal and healthy life.

Our Daughter Now

Christine today.You would never know now that our daughter once had a heart defect. She has made slow but steady gains in her delayed development and is living a happy, healthy life. The slow shuffle she had before the surgery has been replaced by a bouncing, skipping gait. We hope she is an inspiration for prospective adoptive parents of children with heart disease. Initially, we were scared, not knowing what her prognosis might be, but have learned through our experience with our daughter, that children with heart defects can lead a normal and healthy life.

She was given a clean bill of health when she left and has been spent three years catching up on her delayed development from institutionalization. It has been slow and hard for her at times, but she has come a long way. We kept her back an extra year from entering kindergarten and she is keeping up with her first grade classmates now. She is always happy and cheerful and an especially beautiful child, with a giving heart, who loves to be around a lot of people. She likes to be the center of attention. The adoption agency told us, almost apologetically, when they video taped her in the orphanage, that she was extremely timid and shy and afraid of every new thing she experienced. Now you would hardly call her shy. She is usually the loudest one in a group of kids, jumping right in impulsively with any new situation she is faced with.

Copyright 2001 Barb Burke

Barb Burke and her husband have 6 children, four joined their family by adoption. She is a wonderful advocate for children in need of families and children with special needs. Visit her website for information on her family, special needs of children and an excellent overview of resources for Financial Assistance for Adoptions.
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