By Jennifer Browning
At Tyler Horner’s six-month check-up in June of 2006, his pediatrician, Dr. Ruo, heard a heart murmur. This new finding was contradictory from when Tyler was born on Christmas Eve, Tyler had seemed perfectly healthy and there were no signs of a heart murmur then.
Dr. Ruo listened and listened to his heart, finally deciding that he wasn’t comfortable with this new murmur and referred Tyler
to the pediatric cardiologist. Tyler was scheduled for an echocardiography August 13. A call came at the end of June, Tyler’s cardiologist had an opening and said they could move the Echo up to July 27.
“There wasn’t a major rush because Tyler had no other symptoms, no cyanosis, no shortness of breath, he was growing and eating well,” Tyler’s mother Mallori Rogers said. “They began by examining Tyler, and then told me that he appeared very healthy and they predicted the murmur would be an innocent one.”
That was until the Echo technician began the Echo. He looked and looked, and stared at Tyler, and back at the screen and then left the room. Dr. Kahn, the cardiologist, returned with him and then they continued to stare and look shocked.
Then Dr. Kahn said the words that Mallory would never forget.
“I am so sorry to tell you, you’re son has a very sick heart. We need to do surgery immediately. I’m going to call the Life Flight,” Dr. Kahn said.
Mallori could feel herself go weak, as they tried to explain what was wrong with Tyler’s heart.
“I didn’t hear any of it. My ears were ringing and I was crying and shaking,” Mallori said, remembering that moment.
Doctors immediately put a pulse oximeter on Tyler’s foot and monitored his heart rate and oxygen. The ambulance came and took Tyler in his car seat to the heli-pad where the helicopter came and took him away.
Mallori and her family drove two hours away to meet Tyler at the hospital. By the time they arrived, they had already run many tests, and Tyler was settled in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).
The pediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon came in and spent an hour and a half explaining Tyler’s diagnosis of ALCAPA (anomalous left coronary artery from pulmonary artery). A major artery was not attached to his heart and had deprived the muscle of oxygen since birth. His mitral valve was weak from the oxygen deprivation and he had an aneurysm from a silent heart attack that they estimated to be a few months old–making him only a few months old at the time of the heart attack.
“He talked about the possibility of repairing the valve, re-attaching the artery and repairing the aneurysm if it would rupture. I signed papers agreeing to all of the possible complications, and they stressed that his heart was very sick and this was his only hope,” Mallori said. “I cried all night long and in the morning.”
In less than 24-hours doctors were rushing Tyler off to surgery. He was in the operating room for eight hours. Finally, .Dr. Kahn came out . Tyler was doing well, and his heart was beating on its own.
The surgeon repaired the artery with a cadaver artery, and did not have to touch the aneurysm or the valve. Tyler spent a little over two weeks recovering in the hospital and returned home on August 13–the day of his original appointment.
Today, Tyler is an intelligent and loving four-year-old little boy , not at all aware of the obstacles he has overcome. But his mother, Mallori, has constant reminders. Tyler takes five medications a day and still needs his valve replaced. But he is otherwise doing well,
“The cardiologists always smile and shake their heads in disbelief when they see him, as they have all reassured us that he is a miracle child,” Mallori said. “The heart condition he had is extremely rare and most babies die before diagnosis. We are thankful everyday for the doctors who saved Tylers life, from Dr. Ruo going with his gut instinct, Dr. Kahn reacting quickly to ensure Tyler the best outcome, to Dr. Pourmagahdam (the surgeon) for all of his knowledge and patience. We are thankful everyday to have Tyler here with us!”
After Tyler’s surgery, Mallory began receiving the Mended Hearts newsletters every few months in the mail, and she noticed the section Mended Little Hearts. Later she noticed Mended Little Hearts on Facebook, so she joined there.
Mallori said she has met others through the Mended Little Hearts Facebook Page, and read the stories in The Mended Hearts Heartbeat magazine.
“It just feels good…..and bad, if that makes sense to know that other parents are out there,” Mallori said. “Sometimes I would read a story about a little one who is worse off than Ty and it makes me thankful, and sometimes I read about little ones who have experienced miracles, and it gives me more hope.”