My boy was born with average size, with mild jaundice, but not so serious as to require extended stay in the hospital. He had a loud cry that could shake the whole neighbourhood.
We brought him for his one month checkup at the polyclinic. The doctor in the polyclinic detected a heart murmur and immediately referred us to a specialist in KKH. My husband and I were surprised with this discovery, as the pediatrician did not mention anything about the murmur. The polyclinic doctor assured us that it was normal for babies to have heart murmur, and my boy’s condition might not be bad afterall. Nevertheless, we had questions in our head and kept asking ourselves questions like how could this arise, what could the heart murmur be and so on.
On the day of the appointment with the cardiologist in KKH, my boy had to go for a scan. During the scan, the doctor briefed us on how a normal heart would function and how blood would flow in a normal heart. Then, he showed us, through the scan, how the blood flowed in my boy’s heart. It was concluded that my boy had Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). Based on the definition obtained from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrial_septal_defect), it is a form of congenital heart defect that enables blood flow between the left and right atria via the interatrial septum. To put it in laymen’s term, a heart is being divided into four quadrants. My boy had a hole in the upper quadant which resulted in blood flowing from one quadrant to the other quadrant of the upper part of the heart. The hole is considered large if it is 9 mm in size, and if left untreated, will result in an enlargement of the heart, and eventually, heart failure. The hole in my boy’s heart was 8 mm in size. Even though his hole was classified as "medium", my husband and I just couldn’t bring ourselves to accept this fact. The doctor advised us to observe our boy’s condition, and made sure that he didn’t show any signs of breathlessness. He would have to undergo an operation to close the heart when he reached 15 kg in weight if the hole hadn’t closed by then.
The Road Ahead….
The days following our boys’ diagnosis were filled with searches on the internet on the causes of ASD and the various treatments available. I was also a member of another forum site, and talked to other members on their children’s conditions. It was through that forum that I realised my boy’s condition wasn’t the worst. In a way, we were glad that the hole was at the upper chamber rather than the lower chamber. Some children had multiple holes, and other complications. Together with these parents, we all prayed hard for our children’s recovery.
Although my boy didn’t present any signs of breathlessness, he developed Allergic Rhinitis, and was also admitted to hospital for bronchitis. My husband and I were very worried whenever he coughed for prolonged period. My boy practically didn’t put on much weight before he turned 3. Nevertheless, we were consoled when we heard that the hole did not grow bigger.
Shortly after our boy turned 3, our family had to stay overseas for 6 months. Before we left Singapore, my husband and I brought our boy for another checkup. We were greeted with good news that the hole had become smaller to 5 mm. As my boy was below 15 kg then, the doctor suggested he could perhaps could for an operation to close the hole 6 months later after we returned to Singapore. Both my husband and I had sort of convinced ourselves that the operation was inevitable. Six months later, after we returned to Singapore, we brought our boy for a checkup, and was pleasantly surprised when the doctor told us that the hole had already closed! My boy was officially discharged! Words simply couldn’t describe how we felt then, even though the boy didn’t know what the happiness and tears were all about.
So, parents out there, don’t despair. If your child has ASD or VSD (Ventricle Septal Defect), it’s not the end of the world. There is always a possibility that the hole will close on its own without any external intervention. The most important thing is to treat your child like any other normal kid. They are not different from other kids, anyway.