How Innovations in Cardiology Saved a Tiny Heart
 
Young boy and father playing together at sunset

How Innovations in Cardiology Saved a Tiny Heart

It's a sunny afternoon and the Mondal family is having a picnic. As Mr. Mondal watches 4-year-old Ayush running around, playing with his older brother Arya, he feels more than just joy for his young son. There was a time when he wasn't sure Ayush would get the chance to grow up. For a man whose purpose is ensuring a full and happy life for his family, it was unthinkable.

Early days

With their second baby's due date approaching, Ashish and Baitalika Mondal were excited. Baitalika's first pregnancy was uneventful — at nine months, she delivered a healthy baby boy. There was no reason to suspect anything different with baby Ayush.

So when Baitalika went into labor a full month before she was due, the Mondals were alarmed. They went to a specialty medical hospital in Calcutta, and Baitalika was quickly admitted.

The Mondals were told that because Ayush was born prematurely, his birth weight could be much lower than the ideal birth weight. Indeed, Ayush was born small; he weighed just 1.8 kilograms, and he was immediately examined for proper development.

A few hours later, the Mondals received some frightening news: There was a problem with Ayush's heart. His aortic valve was 52% blocked, and he had a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) — a hole in his heart.

In the details

The Mondals were distraught. What did this mean for their baby boy?

An aortic block stunts efficient blood flow; the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body. Blocks are especially dangerous for newborns and very small children, as their heart muscles aren't strong enough to bear the additional pressure.

The ductus arteriosus is an opening between two blood vessels of the heart; this route is important for transporting oxygenated blood from the mother to the baby during pregnancy. For most babies, the opening seals itself shortly after birth. But in some cases, it doesn't — and that can prove life-threatening for the baby, as it lets blood flow into the lungs and makes it difficult for the child to breathe.

Because PDA is not uncommon in premature babies, advances in healthcare technology have focused on methods for treating it so these infants can go on to live full lives.

But the doctors in Calcutta tried for days, using every technique at their disposal, to close the hole in Ayush's heart. Nothing worked.

Even faced with tension, helplessness and uncertainty, Ashish was grateful for the compassion of the physician who took on Ayush's case. Though typical treatment methods were failing, their doctor was endlessly patient.

Finding answers

Thirty-five days after he was born, Ayush was still in the NICU. The doctor assured the Mondals daily that he had a plan to help Ayush, and though their regular conversations with him helped them understand the condition affecting their baby, the family could not help but worry.

Once Ayush's aortic blockage hit 72%, it became clear that he didn't just need an operation. The blockage, together with the open duct, meant he needed one immediately.

On September 10, 2015, doctors operated for five hours to place a duct occluder — a small device that closes up patent ductus arteriosus — in Ayush's tiny heart. The operation was a success. With the hole in his heart repaired, it began pumping normally and his blood flow became more regular. The aortic blockage was also reduced to just 20%, and doctors were able to take him off of the many medications he'd been prescribed.

Three days later, much to the relief and joy of his family, Ayush was finally discharged from the hospital. The doctor had been correct — and he had saved Ayush's life.

Growing up

Four years later, Ashish is grateful for how normal Ayush's childhood has been. He brags about the 4-year-old's above-average vocabulary, remarkable memory and confident personality. Over time, the occluder device may require maintenance or replacement, but thier doctor, who continues to provide primary care for Ayush, assures him that his condition can be managed safely.

Ayush's amazing recovery has meant a return to normalcy for the Mondals. The family picnics that felt like a distant memory during long days in the NICU are once again a regular tradition. For Mr. Mondal, the experience was also an opportunity to re-evaluate his own health. As he has watched his son recover and grow, he has also focused more energy on managing his diabetes with exercise and home-cooked meals. Providing for his family had been his purpose for so long that he had stopped thinking about the finer details of caring for himself.

With increasing healthcare technology advances, especially in the field of pediatric cardiology, tiny innovations have gone a long way toward ensuring that children like Ayush can live full, healthy lives with their families.

This is why, at Abbott, we're working towards creating such life-changing technology that can create more possibilities for everyone, everywhere no matter what age and which stage of life.

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