Thursday, July 12, 2007

Azlynn Claire was born November 16, 2004. She weighed in at a healthy 6 lbs. 6 oz. Her Apgar scores were 9/9. She seemed to be in picture perfect health. Azlynn was breast fed and grew at a normal, healthy rate. She never had any symptoms of CHD.
However, in July of 2005 Azlynn had a slight cold. I took her to her pediatrician who did a routine exam on her. When she listened to her heart she told me that Azlynn had a murmur. I knew that some babies have murmurs and didn't become frightened until she suggested that Azlynn have an echocardiogram at University of Alabama's Children & Women's Hospital. Her pediatrician, Dr. Michelle Naman, said she didn't think it was serious but she wanted to make sure all was well. So, approximately 2 weeks later Azlynn had an echo. From that moment on, our lives changed.
Dr. Naman called me shortly afterward to let me know that Azlynn had a hole in her heart. She was referring her to a pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Ann Hackman, in Mobile, Alabama. We were to be at Dr. Hackman's office the following day. I was terrified of what I would learn about my perfect little girl.
Dr. Hackman told me that Azlynn had a condition called Atrial Septal Defect. She said the hole was small and she thought it would close as Azlynn grew. It was 9mm when the first echo was done. Azlynn was put on Lasix to reduce the amount of fluid around her heart and was ordered to have an echo every 3 months to monitor the hole.
Life returned to normal aside from the fact that Azlynn could spend little time in the sunshine and went through more diapers than twins would! She danced at 6 months and walked at 8 months. She was a very happy baby, definitely asymptomatic.
In August of 2005, about 2 months after her diagnosis, Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast where we live. We were fortunate enough to evacuate and come home to a house that was not damaged. However, we didn't have power for a week afterward and our drinking water was tainted for a long time. I knew that if Azlynn got an infection from the water it could compromise her health. I not only had to buy drinking water for her formula, but to bathe her in also. There were distribution centers everywhere, but no one could give me enough water. The stores that were open and still standing were sold out of water. I resorted to bathing her in the sink with one gallon of water at a time. The weather was hot and humid and she wore only a diaper. She wound up with a horrible diaper rash that turned into sores. I was very worried she would get an infection that would spread to her bloodstream, but she didn't. We made it through the aftermath of Katrina.
After struggling through the destruction of our hometown, we persevered. Azlynn continued going to the cardiologist to have echocardiograms done. For the next 9 months the hole never got any larger. She was walking and starting to talk. She was still asymptomatic.
In June of 2006, I noticed that Azlynn was starting to tire while eating. She would breathe hard when she walked. I mentioned it to her cardiologist who worked her in for an early appointment. At the office, her echo showed that in just 2 months her hole had gone from 9mm to 15mm. Dr. Hackman recommended surgery as soon as possible. She arranged for Azlynn to have surgery July 18, 2006 in New Orleans, La.
About a week before her surgery, the folks in New Orleans called and said that Azlynn's surgeon had had a brain aneurysm and was hospitalized. Surgery was canceled. I had already taken leave from my job and worried about the financial effects of the cancellation. But, Dr. Hackman's staff stepped in and arranged surgery for July 19, 2006 in Birmingham, Al. at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I was so scared because my fears had become reality. My little girl had a date for open heart surgery.
We met with Dr. Kirklin, her surgeon, the day before her surgery. He was a very nice, confident man. But I was still scared. Azlynn was put on a heart monitor the night before the surgery and she wore it like a diamond necklace. She was only 20 months old, but it seemed like she understood the situation like an adult would. Another echo was done and the surgeon confirmed that her hole was 15mm. We would proceed with surgery the foloowing day, July 19, 2006.
That morning, I couldn't have been more of an emotional wreck! Azlynn was given a sedative about an hour before surgery but she was still alert. As we walked down the long hall toward the surgery area, Azlynn named off all of the family members walking with her. She was doing a roll call that she would repeat several times in the near future. The CRNA took a crying Azlynn away. I was sure I would collapse there in the hallway.
We waited an agonizing 3 hours in the waiting room. My stomach churned and I cried. And I cried and then I smiled. I thanked God for modern medicine. I waited as patiently as I could for them to tell me that my baby girl's heart was beating again. And it happened.
Soon I was led into the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit to see Azlynn. She was on a ventilator. She had 3 drain tubes coming from her abdomen. She had donor blood going into her tiny body. She had a towel wrapped around her head. Her body was swollen. But, her hole was closed. They told me that it was actually bigger than they had expected. Originally, we thought the hole was 15mm, but it was 19mm. Her surgeon said that her heart was significantly enlarged and her recovery may be a little slower than average because of that.
I stayed in the waiting room for the next 24 hours until she was moved to a regular room. Every few hours I was allowed back to see Azlynn. I cried every time. But every time, she was getting a little better. Between the first and second visits, she had had the ventilator removed. She was awake and asking for Mama in a scratchy little voice. She was mad because she was thirsty. But, my baby was better!!!
Much to our surprise, Azlynn was released from the hospital 4 days after her surgery. She was doing super. After a week, Azlynn was once again active. She has been doing great since. She has to see her cardiologist annually. She isn't on any medications. She only has a very beautiful love mark on her chest where God gave Dr. Kirklin the ability to fix her heart.
Thanks for letting me share Azlynn Claire's story!

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