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
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
Our Daughter's Surgery
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
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
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 www.angelfire.com/journal/adoptionhelp
for information on her family, special needs of children and an excellent
overview of resources for Financial Assistance for Adoptions.