Written by Brianna Hartmann
When I was born nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I was deemed a healthy little girl besides some jaundice which quicly cleared and my parents were allowed to take me home. It became apparent however that I wasn't a normal little girl. I was constantly in and out of the doctor for one thing or another and at four months of age I got a nasty ear infection that sent me to the doctor once again. The doctor I saw wasn't my normal pediatrician and had heavily considered becoming a pediatric cardiologist. He said yes my ears were infected but he also didn't like the way my heart was beating it was too fast, I was in tachycardia. So he took an EKG, which was normal by his read, but he also sent it to Children's to be read. He told my mom not to worry and to follow up with my primary pediatrician in 4 days. So she did and when she did she asked about the EKG because she hadn't heard what children's said. My pediatrician knew nothing about it but when my mom told him what happened he flipped out. He immediately checked my heart out and didn't like what he heard. He ordered another EKG and a chest xray. As it turned out the other doctor had a right to be worried in the span of 4 short days I had gone into congestive heart failure.
So my doctor called down to Children's heart clinic and talked to Dr. Singh. Dr. Singh said since it had come on this suddenly it had to be congenital cardiomyopathy and that there wasn't anything that they would do for me in the hospital that my mom couldn't do at home. Plus he added he didn't expect me to make it throught the weekend and so he wanted my family to have as much time with me as possible. He gave my pediatrician a list of medications to prescribe and told him if I made it through the weekend he would see in clinic first thing monday morning. So with a death sentence and a list of medications my pediatrician went back to my mother who still had no idea what was happening. It was then that she was told that my heart was failing and that I probably wouldn't live through the weekend. That they were going to do everything however to make sure I did, so they needed to start me on meds right away and they needed her to call every hour to check in with their clinic. So she did and I lived through the weekend.
The following monday I saw Dr. Singh for the first time. An echo was done and showed that Dr. Singh was wrong. I had a large Atrial Septal Defect. In fact it was so large I almost had no septum left. This is why it had the same devestating effects on my heart as Congenital Cardiomyopathy. My parents and Dr. Singh discussed treatment plans and decided to see if I could be stabilized on medications. However by the time I was 6 months and checking back in with Dr. Singh it was apparent that wasn't going to happen. So plans were made for surgery. Now as you probably know most kids with ASD's have something called a clamshell device inplanted and don't have to have actual open heart surgery. Well in 1990 when I was having my surgery the Clamshell device was still in FDA trials and so it wasn't an option for me here in the US. However Dr.Singh believed in it so much that he asked my parents to bring me to Canada to have the procedure done there. My parents however said no because they didn't want to go outside they US for healthcare. So instead I had the normal open heart procedure done here at Children's in Minneapolis on June 1, 1990. Dr. Helseth did my procedure and I did remarkably well.
However the journey is not over. My ASD may be closed but it is causing problems even closed. I just found out this week after suffering from tachycardia for over a year that I am going to need an ablation procedure to fix the tachycardia. The ASD causes the tachycardia because of its placement in the heart. A date hasn't been set yet for this procedure but I am hoping it isn't any time soon.
Four years ago I graduated high school on June 1st 2008. It was an amazing day as the transformation in 18 years was unbelieveable. When I was 4 and 6 months old I don't think anyone thought it was possible for me to make it to high school graduation and I did. It was made all the better by the fact it fell on my heart day.
My CHD has also influenced my life in huge ways. I am a senior in college and proud to say that I am a pre-medicine and Psychology major. Dr. Singh was a huge influence in my decision to become a doctor as he told me I should be a doctor from the time I was about 5 years old until the time I told him I had decided to go pre-med and then he told me I was going to do great and some day he was going to be reading some medical journal and see my name. I don't know what I am going to study in medicine yet, but I know it will be in pediatrics as I love kids. My CHD has made me want to pursue medicine and help families through rough times like Dr. Singh helped my family and me. I will graduate soon and hopefully be off to medical school in coming years. Something no one could have imagined when I first was brought to Children's as a baby but something they are all so proud of now. I though know that with out them it wouldn't be possible.