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Ryder was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which essentially means he only had half of a normal, functioning heart. His parents, having learned this while he was still in utero, had gotten to know the cardiology team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital before he was even born. They were advised Ryder would have to have three open heart surgeries to reconfigure his heart with tubes and shunts.
Ryder’s first surgery was in Edmonton at five days old and then he spent a couple of days at the Alberta Children’s Hospital before he was sent home. His parents were equipped with a kit to monitor his oxygen and told that the period between his first and second surgeries would be the most precarious. It was imperative that he stay in good health though he would be especially susceptible. On two occasions he was brought to Emergency because something as simple as a cold caused his oxygen to drop to dangerous levels. It felt like forever, but Ryder made it to his second surgery at five months old and then his third at 2 ½.The family continued with regular follow-up appointments at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, where Ryder had echocardiograms and ECGs every few months.
At a routine appointment in May 2015, Ryder’s cardiologist Dr. Meyers noticed his heart seemed sluggish and though it was not cause for immediate alarm, she requested the family come back in three months (as opposed to the six-month interval they had just graduated to) for more tests. In August, Ryder went in for follow-up and Dr. Meyers came back with worse news than Katie had imagined. His heart was still not functioning as well as it should be, but there was an even bigger problem: His scan showed a blood clot in a major heart valve, putting him at risk of a stroke. Ryder was admitted to the hospital immediately and given injections of a powerful blood thinner in his leg twice a day for the next four days. A follow-up test showed the meds had worked and the blood clot in his heart had dissipated. Katie says she hates to think what could have happened if the hospital’s team had not discovered the clot. She did have a chuckle though, because as a teacher, she is used to parents informing her about things like allergies, while this year she had to ask Ryder’s teacher to be on stroke watch.
Ryder’s journey isn’t over – in fact he might have another surgery as early as this week – however, his family is so thankful for the staff here, from the cardio nurses (Kelly, Norma and Patty) to the specialists who do Ryder’s tests. Though he gets anxious about those tests, “the staff works so hard for him and they’re so patient” says Katie.