Updates on Samaah

Born on August 25, 2006, Samaah is back in Saskatoon after spending her first few days in Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

From the vague description provided by Hassan on Friday, we had incorrectly assumed that the condition was transposition of the great arteries. The actual condition is very similar, but not the same. Kashif is working on providing us the description of the actual condition. Sorry for the confusion.

Dr. Kashif Yousuf generously provided the below to give us some idea of Samaah's heart condition:

Many of you have questions of what exactly is going on with little Samaah’s heart. I will try my best to summarize the condition of her heart in this post, InshaAllah.

The congenital (implying she was born with it) heart defect that Samaah has is known as Transposition of the Great Arteries.

When describing vessels in this post, I will refer to them as either veins (carry blood to the heart) or arteries (carry blood away from the heart).

Our heart essentially comprises of four chambers: two on the right, two on the left.
In a typical adult, we have about 5 liters of blood running through our system; Samaah probably has close to half a liter. The average baby’s heart will beat about 130-150 times per minute, circulating that entire volume of blood through her entire body.

Little vessels (veins) collect blood from different parts of the body, and eventually the blood ends up in the right side of the heart through one of the largest veins in our body (known as the vena cavae). Then the blood exits the right side of the heart through one of the biggest vessels (artery) in the body: the pulmonary artery. It is this artery which takes this blood to the lungs. Here the blood is oxygenated (oxygen molecules attach to the blood so that the blood can then circulate throughout our body and provide our different muscles with oxygen).

This oxygenated blood then makes its way to the left side of the heart through a vein: the pulmonary vein. The left side of the heart then goes on to pump the blood out through the left side of the heart using a large vessel (artery) known as the aorta. The aorta eventually has many smaller branches of vessels (arteries) branching off it which carry oxygenated blood to different muscles in our body and provide these muscles with oxygen which is essential for them to function. Eventually these muscles use up the oxygen from the blood and deoxygenated (oxygen-less) blood makes its way into small vessels (veins) which then make their way back into the right side of the heart and the cycle continues to repeat itself. One heartbeat represents one cycle. It truly is amazing how this whole cycle can take place about 130 times in one minute in little infants like Samaah. SubhanAllah.

So this, in a nutshell, is how a normal heart functions.

In Samaah’s case, the two biggest arteries of our heart have been transposed (switched). So the pulmonary artery, which normally exits the right side of the heart and takes blood the lungs, is now exiting from the left side of the heart. Concurrently, the aorta is exiting the right side of the heart in Samaah’s heart.

In essence, Samaah’s body has two parallel cycles of blood-flow taking place. So going back to what we discussed earlier, little veins collect deoxygenated blood from muscles and take it the right side of the heart. The blood then exits the right side of the heart through the aorta INSTEAD of the pulmonary artery. The aorta then goes onto take this deoxygenated blood to the rest of our body which cannot really use the blood (because there is no oxygen on it) and the blood then returns to the right side of the heart. By the same token, there is a parallel cycle taking place in the left side of the heart which keeps recycling oxygenated blood.

So, the problem is Samaah’s body and its muscles needs oxygen to function and no matter how much oxygen she takes into her lungs, this is not ending up throughout her body.

So how is little Samaah managing without oxygenated blood? The doctors have completed a small procedure known as a septostomy (making a small hole between the left and the right side of the heart). This allows a connection between the two cycles and some of the oxygenated blood which is cycling only in the left side of the
heart is able to make it to the right side and thus reach the different muscles in our body. Also, Samaah has a tube in her trachea (throat) which is pumping a high concentration of oxygen into her lungs, so that her blood becomes as oxygenated as possible.

Now this “septostomy” is just a temporary solution. The curative (permanent) solution for this problem is actually performing open heart surgery, and re-positioning the two great arteries into their required position. This way, one continuous cycle can be restored and the small hole which the doctors have made can also be repaired as it will no longer be necessary.

InshaAllah this large procedure should be completed in the next day or two, and we pray that Samaah will come out successful from this surgery.

If you have any questions about this procedure, feel free to post them on the blog and I will try my best to clarify things for you, InshaAllah.


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