"Miracle Baby" Going Strong Four Years After Life-Saving Open Heart Surgery
March 2005 — Four years ago, we shared the story of Ahmad, who was born on December 15, 2000, at Memorial Hospital West with a life-threatening heart condition – Tetralogy of Fallot. He required immediate surgery. As she looks back on that day, Lashonda, Ahmad's mother, reflects, "This is a memory that doesn't fade. I had taken good care of myself when I was pregnant, and the ultrasounds and tests all came back normal. I was in shock at first, then denial."
Life-Saving Surgery, Compassionate Care
Before Lashonda could hold her long-awaited baby in her arms, he was transferred to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital and brought to the operating room. There, Richard A. Perryman, MD, Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, opened the baby's tiny chest and inserted a new pulmonary valve fashioned from donated heart tissue. He closed a hole between the two pumping chambers, opened an area of muscular obstruction and tailored the arteries to the proper size to ensure adequate blood flow.
For Lashonda and her husband, Fred, the most important element in Ahmad's care, besides their faith, was the fact that he received treatment at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. "I love Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital," she says. "I brag about it all the time. I always felt that Ahmad was safe, and the staff is amazing — so caring and compassionate. And that didn't change when I brought him back for a catheterization procedure in August 2004 and he had to stay overnight."
Lashonda fondly remembers many of the nurses and support staff who cared for her son. She and her family spent the first month of Ahmad's life at the Conine Clubhouse — a free-of-charge "home away from home" for the families of hospitalized patients — while Ahmad recuperated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. "I would have sworn I was in a resort," she says. "The staff and other families were very genuine and sweet. And there was always someone there to put a smile on my face. When my family and friends came to visit us there, they knew we were safe from any added stress."
"Miracle Baby" Continues to Thrive
Ahmad, now 4, requires follow-up surgery to replace the pulmonary valve he received at birth because it has not grown with him. Ahmad's cardiologist, Jay Chandar, MD, Director of Pediatric Catheterization at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, and cardiologist on the medical staff at Memorial Regional Hospital and Memorial Hospital West, regularly monitors his health and recently told Lashonda and Fred that it was time to schedule the procedure. "My husband was so positive and supportive when we learned Ahmad would need to have surgery this spring," says Lashonda. "He reminded me that this is a good thing because it means that Ahmad is growing and strong."
In the meantime, Ahmad goes to pre-school and receives regular speech and occupational therapy. "Because of his heart defect, he has some developmental delays," says Lashonda. "He understands well, but has difficulty with speech. He has come a long way, though."
Lashonda adds: "It is important for other parents to know that they shouldn't overcompensate, although it is natural to want to do everything for your child." She learned this firsthand through a recent experience at the school Ahmad and his younger brother attend.
One of the teachers asked Ahmad to take his 18-month-old brother, Brandon, to his classroom. "I couldn't believe they expected him to do it," she says. "I was even more amazed when he took his little brother by the hand and walked him to class. His teachers keep telling me he is capable of so much more and I need to let him try." Lashonda plans to attend the recently established Mended Little Hearts Support Group to share the story of her "miracle baby" with other families.
Also, Lashonda is prepared for the day when Ahmad will ask about his scar. She credits her 10-year-old son, David, for saying it best, "He had open heart surgery. He survived. He's Superman."
If you would like a referral to a pediatrician, call Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Physician Referral Service toll-free at (866) JDCH-DOC. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.