‘A little heart warrior’Published 10:18am Wednesday, February 20, 2013
5-month-old Ryker Thompson is getting into the swing of being a normal baby after heart surgery in December
Ryker Thompson is one tough baby.
At 5 and a half months, Ryker has gone through open heart surgery to correct a life-threatening deficiency, with little to no fuss. Despite the severity of Ryker’s heart problems, he may never need to go under the knife again.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Bizzy Thompson, Ryker’s mother. “My husband and I have been thrown for a loop.”
Bizzy wasn’t prepared for a heart defect, though she and her husband were planning for their firstborn all last year. Ryker was born on Sept. 4, 2012, after a 41-week pregnancy. Looking back, Bizzy said she thought something was wrong after Ryker’s heart rate spiked while he was coming into the world. But she and her husband weren’t prepared for the following morning, when Ryker’s pediatrician told the Thompsons he had a heart murmer.
Though the pediatrician thought it would go away by Ryker’s one-week appointment, Ryker’s heart murmer grew louder.
“You could actually feel it, when you touched his chest,” Bizzy said.
At 3 weeks old, Ryker was diagnosed by Mayo Clinic cardiologists with Tetralogy of Fallot, a defect which, among other things, caused a dime-shaped hole to appear between the bottom two chambers of Ryker’s heart. It’s one of the most common defects which causes four big concerns: the hole in a baby’s heart, an overly strong right ventricle, an abnormally located aortic valve, and Pulmonary Indifibular Stenosis, which narrows the right ventricle’s outflow passages.
All of these symptoms means Ryker wasn’t getting enough oxygen in his blood, as oxygenated and non-oxygenated blood was mixing in places where it shouldn’t. If not treated, a baby diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot eventually turns blue before suffering from heart failure from a lack of oxygen in his or her system.
“It was probably one of the worst days of our lives,” Bizzy said.
Yet Ryker was already showing his strength, as he grew at an almost normal rate. Doctors were confident they could put off surgery on Ryker until he grew a little more, and Ryker seemed more than prepared to wait. Yet Tetralogy of Fallot causes babies to be even more lethargic than normal, and Ryker soon stopped eating as often as he should.
Once his weight gain started to taper, the surgeons at St. Marys Hospital bumped up Ryker’s surgery from mid-January to Dec. 26.
Even then, Ryker was a trooper, having grown to about 27 inches. He never turned blue, Bizzy proudly notes.
“You wouldn’t know he had a heart problem,” she said. “As we brought him up to the O.R., the anaesthesiologist looks at me and goes, ‘Why are we operating on this guy?’”
Ryker’s surgery was a resounding success. His Pulmonary Indifibular Stenosis has largely subsided, and surgeons told the family Ryker may not need the normal follow-up surgeries common in babies with similar heart defects. He only spent five days in the hospital, much to Bizzy’s surprise. One of the babies in Ryker’s unit at the time had to spend about 15 days recovering from her surgery.
Ryker is slowly picking up speed and growing normally. He hardly ever complained during his recovery time, and he can roll around and get more active just seven weeks after his surgery. The heart champion, as Bizzy calls him, just did well at his recent checkup at the doctor’s office — on Valentine’s Day, no less — as doctors told the Thompsons Ryker didn’t need to come back until August.
“It’s starting to feel like he’s back to normal,” Bizzy said.
Life is returning to normal at the Thompson household, as well. They held Christmas at the beginning of February, and Ryker just made his first big trip out of the house that wasn’t a medical visit. Bizzy, who works at Just for Kix Dance when she isn’t working at home, took Ryker to the Class ‘AA’ state dance meet this past weekend. Bizzy was careful to keep Ryker at home for the past couple months to avoid the flu and other respiratory infections Ryker could have caught, so a big trip like the state dance meet is an accomplishment.
Ryker will most likely have to visit cardiologists throughout his life to keep tabs on his heart. He still has some stenosis and the hole in his heart is smaller, but doctors will have to “watch him like a hawk,” according to Bizzy.
That won’t stop Ryker from being the happy baby he is, however.
“He’s been really strong,” Bizzy said. “He’s a little heart warrior.”