A new heart screening will save the lives of infants across Tennessee
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To observe C.J. Parker today, you would never guess this active 3-year-old had a rough start in life. He scrambles upstairs to show me his train set in the playroom at his home in Oakland, where parents, April and Cameron Parker, tell me he wasn’t always this active. While easy going, C.J. was a lazy baby, lethargic, happy to observe the world from his crib.
“It got worrisome,” admits April, a hair stylist in Germantown.
That’s because a congenital heart defect was making his tiny heart work very, very hard. It beat so fast, it was like he was constantly running a marathon. At well-baby check-ups, their pediatrician described his heart as sounding noisy and slushy.
So at age five months of age, the young couple took their baby to see a pediatric cardiologist. That was when they discovered C.J. had a congenital heart defect called a pulmonary valve stenosis, a narrowing and stiffening of the valve that supplies blood from the heart to the lungs. The cardiologist told the Parkers they would have to operate — immediately.
Preparing for surgery
The news came as a shock. But their baby was scheduled for heart surgery on February 21, 2010. Though unnerving, the couple had several things working in their favor. April had reconnected with an old friend whose son had gone through a similar procedure; her knowledge proved invaluable.
“It was like I was supposed to come in contact with this girl again,” says April. And since Cameron works in the MED’s IT department, he has first-hand knowledge of the miracles doctors can perform. “I feel like we’re always in good hands. I know how good medicine is,” he says.
But once their son was on the operating table, the surgeons discovered something more: three pin-hole-sized holes in the upper right chamber of C.J.’s heart. Though it hadn’t begun to leak yet, if they didn’t operate, “he would have had a sick heart and eventually need a more substantive surgery,” says April. So the day lurched forward to an event far more profound: open-heart surgery. The wait was nerve-wracking.
Several hours later, they received the news they’d been praying for — the procedure was a success. C.J.’s color warmed from grey to pink, and a week later, he was jumping in his exercise saucer. His energy restored, April and Cameron saw a whole different child, one much more active and lively.