Archive for March 21st, 2002

Grace’s Heart Surgery

Grace went into surgery this morning. The hospital gives waiting parents a pager, so that they can get out for a walk, do some shopping, or get some lunch, instead of sitting around in the waiting room until their child comes out of surgery. They page you about half an hour before the surgeon will be finished, so that you have plenty of time to return to the hospital to talk to him. We took the opportunity to return to the Micallefs’ for a coffee and lunch.

The pager went off just after we’d finished lunch. We dropped everything and rushed back over to the waiting room. It wasn’t long before Dr Nunn arrived and told us that the operation had gone very smoothly. After a short wait we were let into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to see Grace.Grace shortly after surgery

The nurses in the PICU were incredible. There is one per patient, and they were happy to explain to us what all the tubes and wires were for. Grace had 3 canulars (in her head, arm and thigh), a central line in the artery in her neck (used to administer drugs and measure blood pressure), a breathing tube up one nostril, a feeding tube up the other, a catheter (you know where that goes!), two chest drains (one for the heart and one for the kidneys), pacing wires (for connection to a pacemaker if needed), pressure probes inserted in the left atrium and pulmonary artery, a blood oxygen probe on her hand, and a collection of electrodes over her body for measuring pulse, temperature, etc.

During the operation, Dr Nunn removed a small piece of the pericardium (the membrane surrounding the heart) and used it to patch up the hole between the top two chambers of Grace’s heart. The hole between the bottom two chambers was closed by pulling the bottom edge of it up and stitching it to the centre of the heart. On the way out, Dr Nunn stitched Grace’s breastbone back together with nylon thread (he described it as similar to tying shoelaces). The nylon will remain in there permanently, and will gradually become part of the bone as Grace grows, much like how a tree growing through a wire fence eventually envelopes it.

The incision in Grace’s chest is only about 5cm long. I’ve no idea how Dr Nunn was able to do everything through such a small hole! He stitched it underneath the skin, so she’ll only have a thin line of scar tissue instead of the railroad tracks you normally see after stitches.

March 21st, 2002


March 2002
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