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

Updated description of Samaah's ailment by Kashif Yousuf

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 Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Drainage (TAPVD).

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 has many smaller branches of vessels (arteries) 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 oxygenated blood which is leaving the lungs and should be entering the left side of the heart through the pulmonary vein is INSTEAD entering the vena cavae which then brings the blood back to the right side of the heart. So the right side of the heart is under a lot of stress since it is receiving double the volume of blood that it should be, whereas the left side of the heart is not receiving much blood flow at all.

In essence, Samaah’s heart is sending all of the blood (oxygenated and deoxygenated) back to the right side of the heart and the blood is not making it into the left side of the heart, so that it can be pumped to the rest of the body.

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, the oxygenated blood is not making it into the left side of the heart so that it can be pumped to the rest of the 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 sides of the heart and some of the oxygenated blood which is inappropriately going to the right side of the heart is able to drain into the left side of the heart as a result of this hole. This way, it is able to circulate throughout 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 pulmonary vein so that it drains into the left side of the heart INSTEAD of the vena cavae. This way, one continuous cycle can be restored and the right side of the heart will not continue to face excessive stress and the oxygenated blood will be able to drain into the left side of the heart. As a result, 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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