Friday, September 29, 2006

Abi’s Story

In July of 1995, we welcomed our third daughter into our family. Abigail Austin was born in a large, suburban hospital and we were relieved for her to be declared “healthy” except for the slight heart murmur, which we were told, was probably normal and would probably disappear in a few days. Having heard this with other children and not having been given any specific symptoms to watch for, we promptly put any worry out of our minds. However, we soon learned that this was a huge mistake and that heart defects can sometimes display themselves in a very dramatic fashion.

When Abi was 9 days old, she suddenly stopped breathing and turned very blue. We called 911 and her father performed rescue breathing on her. She began breathing again just before the ambulance arrived. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the paramedics got permission to transport her to INOVA Fairfax Hospital for Children instead of a smaller local hospital. Abi stopped breathing a few more times in the ambulance and they were finally able to stabilize her in the Pediatric ICU. Three days later she had surgery to repair coarctation of the aorta. Her recovery was difficult, but Abi has flourished under continued cardiac care. She will soon turn 11 years old and is an undefeated pitcher for her fast-pitch softball team. Parents should be made more aware of the symptoms of heart failure when their infants are diagnosed with a heart murmur. We almost waited too long. It would have been a shame for our Abi to die just because we were not made aware of the symptoms we should have been looking for.

Lori Austin

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