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Baby Defibrillator

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Glen Beamish Find out more about Glen Beamish
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  • Baby Defibrillator

    Pretty remarkable.

    July 26, 2004

    Infants get tiny heart defibrillators

    By NELSON WYATT

    MONTREAL (CP) - Tiny pacemakers implanted in two young children have improved their chances of living normal lives and avoiding sudden death due to heart attacks, doctors said Monday.

    Jared Ah-wan, who was four months old at the time of his operation in May, and another child identified only as Sidney-Alexa, 2, suffered from heart malformations rarely seen in children.

    Surgical teams led by Dr. Anne Fournier and Dr. Suzanne Vobecky at Ste-Justine Children's Hospital implanted small defibrillators in the children. The hospital claims the procedures on such young children are a Canadian first.

    Cindy Ah-wan acknowledged she was worried when the operation was proposed for her son and she and her husband "prayed that he would be healed without the surgery."

    "It was quite scary because you don't know what to expect," she said as she cuddled the sleeping infant. "He's the first, youngest baby so we didn't have anything to go on.

    "But we thought we might as well go ahead with it because like they said, he could end up dying so we might as well do something that could prevent him from dying."

    Steven Ah-wan said doctors were very good about explaining the procedures for the young family's only child.

    "With his heart condition, we don't expect to enrol him in football or hockey right now. Because of his heart condition we're hoping. . .," he said.

    "Piano lessons," said Cindy Ah-wan, finishing her husband's sentence with a smile.

    Small metal cases containing the electronic parts of the pacemaker and a battery are implanted under the skin of the child's abdomen in the procedure.

    The device monitors the child's heartbeat and stimulates the heart if the rhythm is too slow and shocks it if the rhythm is too fast.

    Fournier said the child would not feel any pain from the shock.

    "When he is receiving the shock he will lose consciousness so he won't feel it," Fournier said. "He won't feel anything. After that, he may cry or feel something happened."

    Cindy Ah-wan said her son, who is now seven months old, doesn't seem to feel any discomfort from the device and is now undergoing genetic testing to determine the source of his cardiac disease.

    "We want to make sure that if we have another child the same thing doesn't happen," Cindy Ah-wan said.

    The operations have been done in the United States and doctors at the hospital say they believe Jared is younger than those American patients.

    Fournier said the effectiveness of defibrillators has been shown repeatedly in adult patients who have survived cardiac arrests.

    "But their use in pediatrics is rarer, especially for the type of cardiac problems we are talking about today, because these heart diseases are generally diagnosed when the patients are adults."

    Fournier said the procedure will probably still only be used in rare cases.

    Vobecky said at the news conference the defibrillator has a long life.

    "The battery may last up to 10 years depending on frequency of use," Vobecky said. "The wires, we actually don't know but we are expecting another change, especially of the defibrillator wire, as he grows up, probably in his mid-teens and afterwards he may have an adult (pacemaker)."

    Steven Ah-wan praised the hospital's efforts in caring for his young son.

    "We are eternally grateful."
    Every great thing that has ever happened since the beginning of time has started as a single thought in someones mind.
    So if you are capable of thought then you are capable of great things
    Good luck and stay well.
    Glen

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