I Slept Through This Part Of Anatomy & Physiology…

I don’t talk a whole lot about my bread & butter.  I’m a working mom.  Did y’all know that? Hmmm, maybe not.  I am.  My jobs don’t have a whole lot to do with my kids (well, they have a whole lot to do with kids, just not mine).  Besides being a mom, which is full-time in and of itself, I also own two child care centers and work for a group of four lovely pediatricians (I’m not kidding, they’re wonderful women, if you’re in my area and you need really GREAT pediatric care, just email me).

So, I’m a pediatric nurse, which must make me abundantly qualified to care for a child with a complex congenital heart defect like our little Dolly’s.

Yeah, not so much.

You see, when I was in nursing school, I had ZERO interest in anything to do with Cardiology.  It scared me.  I did a rotation through a Cardiac step-down unit and there were a couple of older guys there waiting for new tickers.  They were on an intermediate care unit because they were hooked up to what amounted to an artificial heart and couldn’t be allowed to leave the hospital.  They were bad off.  Their care was complex and their prognosis was scary.  I didn’t dig how sad the whole thing was.  I really like them though.  I still remember each and every one of their names, and their awesome wives too.

I decided right then and there that this was NOT the specialty I wanted to practice in.  So, I slept through that portion of Anatomy & Physiology y’all.  Yes, I’m confessing.  Sometimes, it was a zone out.  Sometimes, it was full-on close your eyes and drool in the huge lecture hall kind of sleep.  Don’t get me wrong, I know the basic anatomy.  I still had to take the test (FYI, I managed a ‘B’ in that course), but as for the deeper understanding of the complexities of the heart and defects associated with it, yeah, I didn’t really care.

When I began to work in pediatrics as a new nurse, the units in our hospital were divided by diagnosis. I loved Hematology & Oncology.  Give me a Leukemia diagnosis any day.  Those heart kids were on the ‘other side’.  I think I floated over there a few times, but I wasn’t assigned those kiddos.  They were for the experienced nurses.

Can you see the irony that’s about to smack me upside the head?

I am now a mom of one of those kids.  Dang.  I wish I hadn’t slept quite so soundly during those lectures.  In all honesty, FPD, the Spanish Interpreter, knew more about congenital heart defects than I did when we were reviewing Dolly’s file.  I had to get up to speed REAL quick.  Thanks to many other heart mamas out there, and a really nice Cardiothoracic Surgery NP on the other side of the country, I’m doing okay now.  I understand HeterotaxyHypoplastic Left Heart and Tricuspid Atresia.  Dolly doesn’t have any of those.  She has two separate congenital heart defects that are each fatal in their own right if not corrected.

The more I research, the more I realize how much of a miracle she is.  

Here is a good image of a normal heart next to Dolly’s heart.

According to Dolly’s echocardiogram (an ultrasound of her heart), her aorta and pulmonary artery are backwards.  Her aorta is supposed to have oxygenated blood in it.  Instead it has de-oxygenated blood in it.  Uh oh.  This usually makes kids blue.  She’s not blue though, why is that?  
She has an open Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) between her aorta and Pulmonary Artery.  This is supposed to close at an infant’s first breath.  If Dolly’s had closed, she would be dead.  Pretty amazing that it stayed open.  It has kept her alive.  It is causing her lungs to work harder to keep her body supplied with Oxygen though, so we don’t know how much damage has been done to her lungs.  If too much damage has been done, we won’t be able to fix her at all.  Scary.  

That’s not all that our Dolly is facing though.  If we go back to the other picture, the one of her backwards greater arteries, you’ll be able to see her second issue.  

Do you see that red ‘x’ that I drew?  Yeah, that pink part (the ventricular septum) is the wall between the ventricles of the heart.  The ventricles are basically the pumpers of the heart.  They pump the oxygenated blood to all the other important parts.  Dolly doesn’t have that little pink part.  Instead of having two pumpers (ventricles),  she has one.

Scary.

As scared as I am though, I’m thankful everyday for the fact that she has just the right combination of defects to keep her alive until I can get to her.  It’s not that I don’t worry about her and all the things that could go wrong, it’s just that I’m a glass half full kind of gal, and knowing what a miracle her little broken heart is makes me feel better, like maybe someone is watching out for her.  Someone has a plan for her.  I know exactly who that someone is.

–FullPlateMom,
who hopes you didn’t sleep through her lecture.  You never know when the irony will slap you upside the head.

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2 Comments

  1. Heehee I so could have written this post lol – ok thenursingsrudent part. Give me a NICU micro preemie and I am happy as a pig in mud – heart not so much. Although we think Griffen only has a PDA the other possibilities frighten me in the wee hours of the morning

  2. What kind of nerd does it make me, that I absolutely love reading and learning about this stuff? Not so much the A/P class, I lasted less than two weeks before I realized I wasn’t ready for THAT yet. It was fascinating but I thought my brain might literally explode. You can’t teach an old dog that many tricks all at once!

    I really love learning that Dolly’s defects are working together to keep her alive. God knew exactly what he was doing when he put her special little heart together. Your Dolly has our prayers.

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