When Tami Arsenault from Woodstock, New Brunswick, shared with her doctor during a routine ultrasound that her baby brother died at just 11 days old due to a heart defect, she didn’t realize that information would make a life-changing difference for her unborn son, Kyle.
Tami’s doctor immediately moved the ultrasound probe back and forth over Kyle’s heart. By doing so, she discovered he had a rare and life-threatening heart condition called transposition of the great arteries (TGA). With TGA, the two main blood vessels coming out of the heart — the aorta and the pulmonary artery — are switched in position, which can cause low blood oxygen levels. Kyle would need heart surgery after he was born to help him survive.
The news was devastating. “I cried. It was just shocking,” shares Tami. “I went from thinking I would have a happy, normal birth to wondering if my son would survive.”
Tami’s doctor sent her to the IWK to meet with a heart specialist and to closely monitor Kyle’s heart rate and growth until his birth. Two weeks before Tami’s due date, she was admitted to the IWK, so her care team was there and ready to provide urgent care during and after Kyle’s birth.
Unfortunately, Kyle’s heart rate began to drop during labour, and Tami had to undergo an emergency c-section. After Kyle was born, he immediately needed a balloon atrial septostomy, a procedure that helps babies with congenital heart defects stay alive until they have repair surgery.
At just seven days old, Kyle underwent heart surgery to repair his heart. While he recovered in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, he was hooked up to a breathing tube and chest tube, a ventilation machine and an IV to help him through it all. Following his surgery, he was connected to a feeding tube to ensure he got the nutrients he needed to grow and develop.
The surgery went well, but complications began the day following his surgery. His little body began to heat up, and his heart rate began to spike. Doctors tried everything to cool his body and stabilize him, which they were, thankfully, able to do. Three weeks after Kyle was born, he was able to go home. He has continued to be followed by the IWK’s cardiology team throughout his childhood.
Kyle, now 14, is a happy and healthy young boy who can do everyday things a child his age can. He loves to play video games and spend time with his friends. Kyle meets with IWK cardiologists through the IWK’s travelling clinics every two years. As part of his ongoing care, he will have an MRI and a stress test in the next few months.