Heart of a child
Congenital heart defects affect 36,000 infants per year in the United States. One Tulsa mother shares the story of how her son overcame heart challenges and why she is reaching out to help others.
Amy and Seth Schroeder swing their 3-year-old son, Logan, who was diagnosed with having a severely underdeveloped heart before he was born.
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Amy Schroeder knows all too well that cardiovascular disease ranks as the No. 2 cause of death for children under age 15.
Her son, Logan Thomas, became a heart patient even before he was born.
Now 3, Logan was diagnosed with having a severely underdeveloped heart while he was still in the womb, she says.
“When I was 20 weeks pregnant, we went in to our doctor for a routine ultrasound and were so excited to find out if we were expecting a boy or girl,” Schroeder says. “Instead, doctors told us that our baby boy’s heart was not formed correctly.”
Two weeks later, Dr. Allis Kliewer with Pediatric Cardiology of Oklahoma confirmed that something was terribly wrong with the Schroeders’ unborn child. The diagnosis was confirmed as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which occurs when the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome occurs in up to four out of every 10,000 live births, according to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
In 2008, there were no surgeons in Tulsa capable of treating Logan, Kliewer says, so Schroeder and her husband, Seth, headed to Houston, where their son would be delivered and open-heart surgery, called the Norwood procedure, performed within days of birth.
Logan was born on Dec. 17 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and whisked away to nearby Texas Children’s Hospital for the operation.
Schroeder watched Logan via a video camera from her room at St. Luke’s.
“I can still remember hearing other babies crying on the maternity floor and wishing I had my baby in the room,” she says.
The tubes and wires “were scary to see coming out of a 7-pound baby,” she says.
Logan’s second surgery, the Glenn procedure, was scheduled when he was 3 1/2 months old in March 2009. Although the procedure can now be done in Tulsa, the Schroeders chose to continue Logan’s care in Houston, Kliewer says. The doctors allowed the family to return to Oklahoma on April 17.
But in May 2010, Logan was rushed into emergency surgery in Houston for heart failure. On Aug. 18, he had to be placed on life support.
To live, he needed a heart transplant. Until a heart became available, doctors used a device called the Berlin Heart to help blood flow in Logan’s heart. At the time, the device had been approved for use in the European Union and was available on a case-by-case basis in the U.S.
“This pumped the blood alongside Logan’s heart and kept him strong enough to wake up and eat,” Schroeder says of the device, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved in December 2011.
On Aug. 27, a donor heart became available.
“We cried and hugged and longed for the precious child we doted on to receive his gift of life and wake up again,” Schroeder says.
About a week later, “We saw Logan pink and healthy for the very first time,” she says. “He was so beautiful.”
Schroeder was able to hold Logan for the first time in weeks after his heart transplant on Sept. 6, 2010, her 30th birthday. Logan was on 20 medications, but he was active and not struggling to breathe.
Although the pediatric heart transplant surgery Logan required is still not available in Oklahoma, Kliewer says, many young heart patients can be treated here.