6/10/2011 9:15 AM
By Jessica Garner
I am a neonatal nurse and the daughter of a man affected by transposition of the great arteries (TGA). Growing up, I never saw or knew the effects of my father’s heart condition. Now, as a nurse working with newborns, I see firsthand what my father and his family went through. This is the story of my father, Mike Freeman, in his own words, that describes what he’s been through since birth:
Living with a congenital heart defect for me is just a normal way of life. I have been blessed with a loving wife and four great children. I have had the opportunity to be involved in my children’s lives from the delivery room through college graduations. I have had the joy of walking my daughters down the aisle and dancing the father/daughter dance at both of their weddings. I was in the waiting room when my granddaughter was born and am currently awaiting the birth of my grandson. All of these things I “should not” have been here to enjoy and each morning I see the scars on my chest that remind me what it took for me to get here.
I was born with transposition of the great arteries, where the two major arteries in the heart are connected to the wrong chambers. In a normal heart, deoxygenated blood is pumped to the lungs by the right ventricle through the pulmonary artery, then circulated through the lungs, receiving fresh oxygen, and is distributed throughout the body by the left ventricle through the aorta. Due to the transposition of these arteries, my blood was being pumped from my lungs back to my heart instead of throughout my body. Doctors in Houston, TX, enlarged a hole in my heart, which allowed oxygenated blood to mix with the deoxygenated blood to improve oxygen circulation throughout my body.
In 1971, eight years after the hole was enlarged, doctors in Fort Worth, TX, performed the Mustard procedure, named after Dr. William Mustard of Canada. The procedure restored the circulation of oxygen rich blood to the rest of my body by reversing the direction of blood flow. My heart now pumps blood to the lungs via the left ventricle, with the right ventricle pumping blood to the rest of my body. This was accomplished by creating a small tunnel (intra-atrial baffle) between the two atriums. The Mustard procedure saved my life, but as I get older, my right ventricle is showing the effects of doing a job it wasn’t meant to do. However, thanks to a great cardiologist and medication, the right ventricle is still able to carry the load.
Each day I am grateful for the life and family I have. I am also a member of the Adult Congenital Heart Fellowship, a group of adults with CHDs in the Dallas Fort-Worth area; we get together to provide encouragement and support for each other.
Jessica Garner’s father was born with TGA in 1963. Her posts will include information and stories about how the family is affected by CHDs, and about the Adult Congenital Heart Fellowship-DFW's involvement in the CHD community. Please see www.achf-dfw.blogspot.com for more information.