Heart 4 Kids: Little one has fully functioning heart & big smile after surgery

A Heart 4 Kids
Photo goes with story

Walker had a heart operation after his dad noticed an irregularity in his breathing.

Data pix.

Let’s clear this up right off the bat. Yes. Walker is a boy. But, gosh, he is so pretty, isn’t he?

"We get this a lot,” his mothe Kate Kupiec said. “An awful lot."

And he is a little thumbsucker, too.

"He's incredibly happy, and pretty full of personality,” she said. "Most of the time that's a good thing, but we're seeing more personality come out that can be sometimes feisty."

Walker’s dad is a pediatrician, and he knew something about Walker’s breathing didn’t quite sound right.

"He was, what I was told, grunting,” Kate said. “I do not have trained ears for that, but he was grunting."

However, they didn’t realize just how not right it was until they decided to do some testing.

"At about two months he was noisy breathing,” his mother said. “He might have had a cold, and our pediatrician thought the noisy breathing was left over from that."

But it never got better, and so Walker’s parents started seeking second opinions. In the beginning, they thought it was perhaps an underdeveloped voice box and airway. There was also another possibility it could be something much more uncommon – a heart condition. Testing revealed Walker had it.

"He's the rare one. It's the really rare thing we wanted to rule out. She had already called Dr. Burkhart and his team before she talked to me,” Kate said.

Soon Walker was on his way to surgery.

"She said, ‘Dr. Burkhart wants to do the surgery this week,’ and we were just floored. We didn't have an understanding of what was going on, and I am so glad."

There was no time to understand or fully comprehend how serious it really was.

"He had been home sleeping without monitoring for five month, because we thought he was a normal baby,” Kate said. “The night before his surgery, I asked if we could go home and sleep in his own bed. We knew we'd have a long road ahead, and could we get some rest, and they said no. We want to monitor him in the PICU at OU Children’s, and that was like ‘Whoa.’"

"It's a pulmonary artery sling,” Dr. Harold Burkhart said.  "We need to disconnect the left artery from the right artery, and then unwrap it from behind the breathing tube and re-implant it into the main artery where it should come from."

Basically, Walker has a normal heart, and Dr. Burkhart and his team had to reroute the plumbing to his lungs. No more noisy breathing or grunting. Now, Walker has a fully functioning, healthy heart.

"We felt like Dr. Burkhart's team was a team of angels,” Kate said.

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