August 24, 2011

Hole in My Heart

Elizabeth Kate was born with a hole in her heart. A ventricular septal defect, or VSD for short.

Kate's VSD was first detected when she was six weeks old, and we have monitored it closely with cardiology appointments at three months, six months, one year, and eighteen months of age. All the news up to this point was positive. The defect was still there, but there was no cause for immediate concern. Hopefully the hole would heal itself eventually. In the meantime, we watched and waited.

Last week we had Kate's two-year cardio exam. The news wasn't what we were hoping to hear. Kate's heart is enlarged, blood is pooling in her lungs, and there hasn't been any improvement in the last six months. On the positive side, her organs are all a-ok, her growth and development is perfect, and none of this stuff (heart enlargement, blood in the lungs, etc) is life-threatening. But we need to start trying to be proactive and take care of the situation. The time for watching and waiting is over.

It begins with a catheter procedure.

Kate's surgery is scheduled for August 31 at Mainz Uniklink in the Kinderkardiologie unit. During the procedure the doctors will measure the pressure in both sides of her heart, get an on-side measurement of her defect, and evaluate her situation to see if she is a candidate for repair.

Ideally, the surgeon will find that Kate's heart is perfect for a catheter repair and will use an "umbrella device" to close the hole completely right then and there. If Kate's heart doesn't allow for this -- if there is any danger whatsoever of damaging the valves of her heart -- the surgeon will not attempt a repair and we will go back to the old drawing board.

As our pediatrician told me yesterday, we should "tuck our thumbs" (the German version of "cross our fingers") and hope that they can repair the defect with a catheter because the other repair method is not so nice.

I am tucking my thumbs, crossing my fingers, and praying with all my might that all of this will be behind us this time next week. Kate's VSD has been a constant source of concern for our whole family ever since it was first detected. Even though Kate's heart is the one with a physical hole, this mommy feels like there is a figurative hole in my own waiting to be repaired along with Kate's.

So this weekend we're packing our bags again. For a week-long vacation in the hospital. We'll be there, trying our best to entertain a very independent, active two-year-old in a hospital bed. Please pray for Kate...and for Nick and me too.

A huge thanks to my awesome girlfriends Janelle, Felicity, Jenn, and Tiffany, who have taken a huge load off my shoulders by offering to watch Ella during this time as often as necessary. I trust these ladies to make Ella's life easier next week, because it won't be easy for her. Not only is Ella going to worry about her sister, she will also worry about her parents being gone. On top of that, she is bound to be disappointed that we cancelled our 10-day trip to Greece -- she was really excited about spending her birthday on the beach. I don't want her fourth birthday to be a huge let down.

Please keep us all in your prayers.

Nick and his Lizzie Kate


  1. You all are in our prayers! We even tucked our thumbs for you!

    As you can see, our interpretations on how to properly perform a thumb tuck varied. While Brooke firmly believes the thumbs must be tucked under the fingers, I feel as though the thumbs must be tucked under the arm pits (to keep them warm).

    Spunky has no idea what's going on. That's because she doesn't speak German.

    Wish you all the best. Please let us know if there's anything we can do.

  2. Oh Aubrey! I am so very sorry to read this. We are sending you all love and prayers!

  3. Prayers for your precious Kate & sweet family!

  4. We'll be praying friend and asking others to join in. We pray whatever the outcome of this test that you have a very definite peace about the situation. Please keep us updated as you can. Love you 4.

  5. I will be praying for you next week. All of you. I'm so sorry your sweet family has to deal with this stuff. Lots of love and prayer, Shay

  6. AUBREY! We will certainly be praying for your whole family. What a scary, scary situation! I can only imagine how worried you are. Know that you all are in our thoughts.

  7. We will be fervently praying for Kate and you guys during this time, having a daughter of my own now, i can only imagine the pit in your stomach right now. God is the Great Physician, he'll heal little Kate's heart.

  8. Aubrey,

    You, Kate, and your family are in our thoughts and prayers too. We will continue to send love your way. I'll get the folks up in Ottawa to put a little love in there too! We are wishing you the best and are certainly willing to help anyway that we can. Stay strong! You are all thought of deeply.

    All our love from Columbus, OH!

  9. Oh Aubrey, forgive me for being so uninformed! I had no idea of Kate's required procedure.
    We will be praying for little Kate and the entire Pettyjohn family!!
    Love you all.

  10. Fingers crossed and Thumbs (our cat) is 100% tucked. She is typically tucked 23 hours a day so that is A LOT of well wishes coming to you guys from the Haynes family. We love you and will be praying for sweet Kate.

  11. Aubrey and Family~
    I am praying for all of you and praying that God is with the Dr's through this. I also am praying for you all to feel calmness during the surgery and know that God is right there with all of you.
    Love and Prayers~ Heidi and The Oliver Family

  12. little kate will be in our prayers, and so will her
    mommy, daddy, and big sis!

  13. Hey!!! Look at me! I'm posting a comment on your blog :)! Tell Nick I said thanks!!

  14. Oh man Aubs! I don't know how I missed this post but only saw the one you just posted today about the procedure. Here I was wondering what was happening but thinking perhaps this was just another one of those visits to check things out like she was having frequently in the beginning. Now I see what's going on and I believe Kate will be just fine but still as a mom, friend, and one who just thinks the Petty Four is one amazing bunch of peeps, I can't help but tear up at the idea of all four of you dealing with this in one way or another.

    We love you guys! We will be praying for you and Kate and the doctors! Give a big hug and kiss to Little Poo Pie from Jenny Poo Pie (the original PP) and the rest of the G's. Much love!