ACHD: Being the tallest and oldest patient at Texas Children’s

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While working out with my wife one Saturday morning in September, I pushed myself harder than normal, trying to show off, and ended up laying on the ground saying, “I can't go any more.” From that moment forward, I started to notice I would reach that “too winded to go on” feeling during a workout faster and faster. 

After a while, I started noticing this winded feeling during my soccer games. I would end up bent over, hands on my knees, breathing but feeling like I was not getting any air. Everything seemed to be working normally, breathing in and out, air going in and out, but I felt like I was standing in the mountains and the air was so thin I couldn’t get enough oxygen.

This was now affecting my soccer playing, one of my favorite things in the world, so I had to get this checked out. I made an appointment with my primary care physician and went to see him. Earlier in September I had a physical and all those tests came back normal. As I was describing what was happening to me, he said the first thing to check off the list was my heart.

I was sent to a doctor who did an EKG and decided I needed a stress test with the oximeter and an echocardiogram. Off to the testing center I went; I was set up for the stress test and began to walk. Seven-and-half minutes into the test, I was still walking, but at a faster pace and on an incline. A doctor came in and asked the tech what my O2 level was. He stated 69 percent which set alarms off in the doctor’s head and he stopped the test right then.

The doctor decided as my echocardiogram was being done that a bubble test should also be conducted. So, with my echocardiogram underway, the tech told me when they were about to shoot a saline mixture with a bunch of air bubbles into my heart. They assured me it’s perfectly safe and as we all watched the monitor, the tech pushed the plunger. I felt the air and saline mixture travel up my arm and then a second later all the air bubbles appeared on the screen filling the right side of my heart. We watched them disappear and that was it. They repeated the test, I was disconnected from the echocardiography machine, the IV was pulled out, I made an appointment for the following day to go over the results, and was on my way.

However, before I was able to start my car in the parking lot, the echocardiogram tech called my cell phone and said I needed to come back in and do another bubble test.

Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, during my appointment to discuss the results of the extensive bubble tests, the doctor told me I have a hole in my heart which allows blood to flow from the right side to the left side causing my O2 levels to drop. He suggested I go to a cardiologist who can repair the hole, as he does not perform that procedure.

Enter Dr. Wilson Lam, the most understanding and patient physician I have ever met. We went over my symptoms, the procedures done to date, my family history and all the things you would expect. Dr. Lam then began to explain in great detail what is happening, why it’s happening and what to do about it. He drew us a picture of the human heart and explained how everything works and what mine was doing; it was by far the best explanation of a diagnosis I have ever received.

IMG_05581Dr. Lam explained this is a congenital condition that is starting to show up in adults more and more. It is usually discovered in young patients and corrected while they are still children, but it can be fixed using the same procedure for adults.

Dr. Lam referred me to Dr. Athar Qureshi to complete the closure. After meeting with Dr. Qureshi, where we talked about the procedure and the two possible devices to be used for the closure, we scheduled the surgery for Nov. 29, 2016 at Texas Children’s.

The day of the surgery everyone, the doctors, interns, nurses, just everyone, was great. We had fun with the fact that I was the tallest and oldest patient in Texas Children’s that day, and I got a kick out of ordering pizza for lunch, something I am sure would not have been on the menu at an adult hospital. When I awoke from the anesthesia, I was met by one of the doctors on my case and told everything went perfectly. The device went in just as the doctors expected and, barring any extraordinary circumstances, I would get to go home the next day after an echo to verify the location of the device.

All through my stay at Texas Children’s, the nurses were extremely nice, doing their rounds and then letting me go back to sleep. The next morning I was taken for the echo which showed everything was just as it should be. An hour later, Dr. Qureshi came in to release me and told me I was free to resume all my normal activities. Soccer? I asked. Yes, he said! Cross Fit? I asked. Yes, he said!  Though my wife made me wait a week, I was back to normal life.

During the weeks that followed, every time I felt even the slightest twinge, I freaked out and emailed Dr. Lam, but he always responded within an hour or two and was able to talk me through it. I am happy to say a very short time after the surgery, I am back to my normal active life, playing soccer, working out at cross fit and chasing my kids all over the place!

Thanks to Dr. Lam, Dr. Qureshi and the entire team at Texas Children’s I made a complete and remarkably fast recovery and have my life back!

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