It was discovered last year, when he was 12. Joshua Servantez went in for a sports physical and his pediatrician heard a heart murmur: irregular sounds - a whooshing, rasping noise, in between the typical lubb-dubb heartbeat - that could have been caused by any number of different condition.
Children's Hospital of Iowa, a component of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, runs a pediatric cardiology Child Health Specialty Clinic in Mason City, and it was there that ultrasounds confirmed Joshua's diagnosis.
Five years earlier, his father, Craig, had undergone open-heart surgery to repair his atrial septal defect (ASD). He was 38, suffering constant chest pains, and doctors warned him that complications resulting from years of blood seepage through the hole could seriously threaten his health. The operation was hard on him, and recovery was long and painful.
"Because I waited so long to have the problem fixed, I'll probably have hypertension for the rest of my life," Craig says.
No one wanted Joshua to have to go through open-heart surgery, but they also knew how dangerous it could be to wait. Many patients like Craig live with atrial septal defects for years. But because they allow blood to leak through the heart, these holes can lead to a condition known as right heart failure, caused by excess blood flow through the right side of the heart.
Until very recently, the only way to repair such a defect was with open-heart surgery. Babies and children with atrial septum holes often were put on heart-lung bypass machines for many hours while surgeons opened their chests and repaired the holes by hand.
Read the rest of this article in the 2/10 Pilot Tribune.