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Sunday Surgeries and Updates: The Hefei Cardiac Exchange

Sunday was another great day in Anhui at the first international pediatric heart exchange with Hefei Cardiac Hospital, Little Hearts Medical, and Love Without Boundaries. Our medical exchanges are true collaborations between the medical teams, and this trip allowed for many discussions on the latest advances in research and patient care.

During rounds, the doctors checked carefully on each of the children who received surgery on Saturday. The tiniest patient, three-month-old Gage, was still on the ventilator. All of his vital signs, however, are strong.

We can’t wait until he is well enough to be moved out of the ICU and back into the arms of one of our healing home nannies.  He looks so small in his hospital bed, doesn’t he?

Kora was sleeping when the team arrived to do morning rounds. She was in very stable condition following her operation.

Colton is still on the ventilator as well, but his heart function looks wonderful. We are cheering that all three kids can now continue their childhoods with strong and healthy hearts.

The medical team then did a full evaluation of baby Mya. You might remember that this little girl came into LWB care in critical condition. She had been found severely dehydrated and malnourished as a result of being born with esophageal atresia.

This birth defect is life-threatening, as the child’s upper esophagus often ends in a small pouch and does not connect to the stomach. Children born with this condition choke when being fed, have difficulty breathing, and need emergency medical care to survive. If Mya’s birth parents did not have access to immediate medical care following her birth, it must have been a very frightening experience for them to watch their baby choke and be unable to eat. When Mya came into our care, she had to be admitted to the ICU and placed on a ventilator because her condition was so dire.

Once she was stabilized, we were able to arrange surgery for her to correct her digestive system.

Mya then came to stay with us at the Heartbridge Healing Home, where she has truly thrived. During her initial hospitalization, we learned that Mya also has a congenital heart defect, so she was admitted to Hefei Cardiac Hospital this week for additional testing. Just look at this beautiful baby girl now.

Everyone on the medical team loved visiting with this precious girl, and Mya was calm and happy during all of her testing.

We are overjoyed that following her exams, the doctors determined that Mya does not need heart surgery at this time. She will be followed every six months with more testing, but her heart defect will not need to be closed until around age three. Of course, we will be hoping that Mya will have long since been adopted and can go through any future cardiac surgery surrounded by a loving, permanent family.

With Mya not needing surgery, that meant only one child would be undergoing an operation on Sunday. Sweet Lincoln was fast asleep when our team first arrived for rounds.

Finally, with a little bit of encouragement, he woke up to study our team carefully as they made preparations to take him back to the OR. Lincoln was born with Down Syndrome, and about half of all children with this special need also have congenital heart defects. Lincoln has an Atrioventricular Septal Defect, the most common type of heart condition for those born with Down Syndrome. This means the tissue in his heart didn’t come together correctly when he was just an embryo, resulting in a large opening in the center of his heart.

Many children with Down Syndrome also have more underdeveloped lungs than their peers, and so respiratory infections such as pneumonia are more common. Lincoln has struggled since he came into our care with lung infections, so the doctors discussed his case carefully.

Soon Lincoln was carried back to the OR, where the surgeons worked to restore normal heart function.

We are happy to report that Lincoln came through his operation well, and he is now in the ICU on a ventilator. We know his recovery might take additional time due to his pulmonary condition, so we would sure appreciate every good thought and prayer being sent his way.

And so another very positive surgery day has come to a close in Hefei. We send a thousand thanks to everyone who has donated to make this inaugural trip possible. We just have to end with this great photo taken outside the OR, which looks a bit like a promotional poster for a new international medical drama, doesn’t it? We know we would tune in!

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