Image credit: Koratmember
Our pediatrician paused too long with his stethoscope at Maya's routine check-up five years ago, and my own heart leaped to my throat as he recommended an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist. We breathed much easier after the diagnosis - a small atrial defect that should close on its own over time. There were follow-up checks at age three and age four, and while the hole still hadn't closed all the way, the cardiologist was comfortable waiting three years before our next appointment.
Last week we drove over for that check-up with a seven-year-old just excited to get a morning off from school. Fully expecting this to be either our last appointment, or to get another three-year pass, we were surprised again by another referral recommendation - this time for an atrial defect specialist in Indianapolis. Maya's defect is not worse, and her heart is showing no signs whatsoever of stress (enlargement, etc.) from the hole, it's just that it hasn't closed yet. And while the doctor isn't concerned, and suspects that the specialist will likely still recommend a wait-and-see approach, he said that he hasn't had a lot of experience with patients Maya's age who have defects that are small, and yet haven't self-corrected by this age.
If she were a boy, there would likely not be any reason for a consultation, but aortic defects can potentially elevate risks for women during pregnancy, so girls tend to be watched more closely and procedures to close the holes are recommended more often. We'll head to Riley this fall sometime - no hurry, we were told - to see what they say about procedure or no procedure.
In all honesty, we're not very worried about this. We have friends who are facing far more serious health issues with their children. This situation is not even the tiniest bit comparable. Maya has no restrictions on activity. She danced this weekend at her spring recital, she'll twirl at her wedding someday, and she'll sway back and forth with a baby in her arms one day, God willing. My main anxiety in it all right now is that it seems to be one of those on-the-fence things, where the defect is not large enough to definitely warrant action, but is present enough to possibly (but probably not) cause issues later on. Ack! We'd much rather be given a clear recommendation than an ambiguous decision to make about a heart procedure. Prayers for wisdom and clarity would be wonderful as we discuss timing for the consultation and eventually talk things over with the doctors there.
These days, Maya runs and leaps and laughs and giggles and occasionally stops to present me with an outstretched wrist. Her infrequent chest pain has been dismissed as almost certainly nothing notable or even heart-related, but the cardiologist wants me to check every now and then when it happens, to rule out a racing pulse. So she runs over to lay an arm across my lap.
"My heart hurts, Mommy", she says almost matter-of-factly. Her eyes watch mine while I count a few beats, give her a smile and a pat and release her with an all-clear to go play.
My heart hurts a little bit too, though.