Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Medical technology is the greatest!

Little Zachary Davis was born October 20 with an abnormal heart. It was a marvel in its own right. Besides having many features of known congenital defects, it also had something not previously recorded in the history of medicine. His coronary arteries, which normally deliver oxygen and nutrients directly to the heart muscle, were instead supplied by a bizarre circuit routed through his brain.

Richard A. Jonas, a heart surgeon at Children’s National Medical Center, said “It usually takes a lot for us to say ‘That’s amazing.’ We see a lot of unusual things, but this was way out there.”

This exotic misassembly was good enough to get the baby through gestation, but he would not have been able to make it through life. A week after Zachary was born, Jonas took his heart apart, added missing pieces and reconstructed it to something close to its original specifications. It took about four hours and included a 25-minute period when the infant was packed in ice, with no blood circulating.

This is simply amazing to me. This little child would not have survived if it had not been for this doctor who specializes in “early primary repair”.

"There are only a handful of people in the world who can take a problem like this, think it through, do a complete repair, and have the child turn out so well," Mary T. Donofrio, Children's director of fetal cardiology, said of Jonas. "He actually did three operations, and [Zachary] had no leftover heart defects."

A newborn's heart is about the size of a large walnut. The operation is done with the surgeon wearing jeweler's magnifiers attached to glasses. How long a baby can be kept safely in "circulatory arrest" varies, but it is generally not more than 45 minutes. With each minute beyond a time limit that the surgeon cannot pinpoint exactly lies brain damage, a lifetime of lost potential, unhappiness and death.

Jonas sketched out the repair, determined the order of his work and kept a running total of how long it would take. (He prefers to do this the night before, explaining that "you do literally sleep on it; you run through the steps in your sleep.") There were 10 steps, the first seven requiring circulatory arrest. "What is difficult about an operation like this is coordinating all those modules," Jonas said. "You do not have an unlimited amount of time." The right order of work is not always obvious. In this operation, for example, he sewed one end of a donated vessel as Step 6, and the other end as Step 10. The price of doing things in the wrong or inefficient order can be very high. "You can paint yourself into a corner. You can literally get in a position where you can't get there anymore because you did things in the wrong sequence."

Zachary ended up with a normal appearing four-chambered heart in which the blood flows in the right direction.
Talk about stressful jobs!

34 comments:

Gyrobo said...

Doctors are always doin' stuff. Like that face transplant.

Saur♥Kraut said...

How incredible. We are so blessed to live in these times. I think of my own spinal fusion recently, and how quickly I've been recovering from it...

Fred said...

I've been pretty lucky, too. I've had several instances where modern medicine saved me some huge issues later on in life.

Lee Ann said...

gyrobo ~ I know, that was incredible. Some of that stuff makes me a bit queasy, but it is still fascinating.

saur ~ You are right, we are blessed. I cannot get over the advanced technology that can change our lives in such a positive way.

fred ~ I guess at one time or another we have all been lucky, or will be at one point in our lives.

hotboy said...

Wouldn't it be great to be able to help someone like that! Just brilliant. Hotboy
p.s. if you haven't got any money, can you still get stuff like that done in the states?

Lee Ann said...

Hotboy ~ It would be amazing to help someone in that capacity.
If you don't have money here in the states, a lot of times you can go through special organizations that will help you fund it.

Troubador said...

...and people say that miracles don't happen.

What you described, to me is nothing short of the hand of God at work

Lee Ann said...

troubador ~ Hey! Thank you for stopping by. I am in total agreement. This was a miracle, and so beautiful.
I hope you will come by more often.

Neo said...

Lee Ann -Sounds like an angel was watching over this little guy.

Hope he fully recovers.

Hiari Shouts said...

what do you think about the face transplant?

The Husband said...

that is amazing!

Lee Ann said...

Neo ~ You are right! There was an angel there for the little guy. I hope he does well too.

Hiari ~ Hey! Thank you for stopping by.
As far as the face transplant....
I definitely think this is new technology on the horizon. If you think about the details, it is a little freaky. (Almost Frankenstein like). The woman was mauled by a pet Labrador, leaving her with severe facial injuries that her doctors said made it difficult for her to speak and eat. The surgery gave her help, not only cosmetically, but it helped in her speaking and eating. I think she was very fortunate to receive the help. I think I would compare it to giving help to someone with a hair-lip/cleft palate.
I hope you will come by again!

Carl ~ I am in total agreement. Simply amazing!

Dave Morris said...

Medical technology advancing as it is, I have no problem predicting we will all live to 100. Even those who are already 60 or more. Things are advancing at an exponentially rapid pace, it's very cool.

Now our only issue will be, where to put everyone. I have an open couch at my place.

Lee Ann said...

Dave ~ You are probably right, we will all live much longer with the technology going where it is going.
hmmmm....I do have an extra fold out loveseat too!

Stone said...

Wow this is amazing. You know i believe God's work is always prefect and he use men sometimes to do that work for him. Amazing

Lee Ann said...

Hey Stone! Yes I agree with you. Thought you would like this topic!

Becky said...

Wow! I'm sure that's a stressful job, but how rewarding it must be!

FantasticAlice said...

It is really amazing what doctors can do now a days...

Thanks for the entertaining and factual post!

twolf1920 said...

Awesome post LeeAnn-good POSITIVE energy coming from this Blog today!

jiggs said...

This is amazing. Also I think the word "congenital" is funny. It sounds like a spanish word meaning "with wiener".

Lee Ann said...

Becky ~ I agree, wouldn't it be amazing to be able to do this?

Alice ~ Hey! Thank you for stopping by. I completely agree.
I hope you will come by more often.

T ~ Thank you, you are always so sweet!

Jiggs ~ Yes amazing! Haha, you are funny...are you being a bad boy?

Kay Ray said...

That story was so touching!! Great Post!!

Calzone said...

I wish doctors could make a replica of your ass so I could use it as a pillow.

Ellen said...

Lee Ann- looks like you have quite a fan in Calzone!

I, too, amd amazed with what medical technology has produced... now if we all could just afford most of it. Loved your story today!

Lee Ann said...

Kay Ray ~ Thank you, I think this is amazing technology.

Baby ~ oh my!
No need for the replica, just come on over baby.

angel, jr. said...

I marvel at the hands of a healing physician. I pray that I may one day have that ability. Not necessarily the surgical ability (I don't want to go into surgery) but the ability to help heal.

Lee Ann said...

Angel ~ You will, just keep on doing what you are doing!

Gyrobo said...

Hey, just think about it- a hundred years ago, the average lifespan was 50 years. Now it's 50% higher. By the time YOU die, it'll be a hundred and twenty!

Joe Tornatore said...

first time visitor. i can't believe the surgery was that short. wow. i work with a special needs population so I see ADULTS no bigger than a toddler still spoon fed baby food.

Lee Ann said...

gyro ~ I hope I have a good long life ;)

joe ~ Hey! Thank you for stopping by. You have a special gift to work with those that have special needs.
I hope you come by more often.

robmcj said...

Is there anyone commenting here who's actually still in one piece? I too have had reason to thank docs for saving my life.

The face-transplant woman. Poor soul. Brave soul. It'll be interesting to follow her progress through the rejection risk and the psychological issues. Compared to her I got off lightly.

Lee Ann said...

Rob ~ Yes, you have been lucky. You still have your life. I am amazed at your strength. I agree, it will be interesting to follow the woman's (face transplant) progress.

Fred said...

on cybertron we have mechaibots to fix our shizzle up. once, i got them to swap jazz and bumblebee's heads around. that was damn funny.

jiggs said...

I'm always a bad boy for you, sweetness.