Day 13 of Guest Blogging for TSC Awareness Month
By guest blogger Alison Walsh (Buckinghamshire, England)
I was about 16 weeks pregnant and had just been to see my cardiologist about my heart murmur, when he mentioned having the baby’s heart scanned just in case he had a valve defect like mine. I replied that it would be really cool to see a baby’s heart scan as I had never seen one before, and I was never offered a scan with any of my other children. As I wanted to see a baby’s echocardiogram, I mentioned the heart scan to my baby consultant and she said that it sounded like a good idea for just in case, so she sent off for an appointment for me.
I received a phone call from Oxford University Hospital a week later to confirm an appointment. I got a bit nervous for a few days because I thought the heart scan would be at my local hospital. My partner gave me a lot of reassurance that my other children were fine so this baby should be too. At 18 weeks pregnant we were driving to Oxford at 7 am. I was nervous but excited all the way there.
The prenatal heart doctor took her time to scan me, being quite quiet throughout the scan. She just explained and showed us the heart chambers on the screen. After the scan she told us that she may have seen something that she wanted to keep an eye on, but for us to try not to worry as it could be something, but it could also be nothing. She asked us to return in four weeks just so she could be sure.
At the next scan in Oxford, the prenatal doctor brought in a colleague to help her have a look. It was then that she told us that our unborn son had rhabdomyomas (heart tumours) and she was worried about three of the tumours as they were quite large. Also, one of the tumours was positioned next to his heart valve. The doctor also told us that my baby had a very high chance of having TSC, and the worst case scenario was that he would die before being born.
I went home and cried for a few days, when I suddenly thought that my other children could have TS, and if they did, they were all fine. So my baby would be, too. This thought reassured me until we returned back to the hospital two weeks later and the two doctors were waiting in the scan room for us. They scanned the baby’s heart, then told us that one of the tumours they were worried about was moving in and out of the valve with the blood flow. If the tumour got any fatter, it would get stuck in the valve and stop the flow of blood, resulting in the baby’s death. She made us another appointment and said, “Hopefully, if everything is okay with the baby, I will see you in two weeks.” She gave us a sad smile goodbye.
Well, my heart just broke. I started grieving for my baby as I waited for him to die inside me. I couldn’t sleep or eat for a week. All I did was cry, and when I stopped crying, and he stopped kicking, I cried even more thinking that was the last kick that I would feel him give me. It was the worst two weeks of my life.
Baby Theo was oblivious to my suffering, and he was growing well. Two weeks later, we went back to the hospital where the doctor said she was so glad to see us back, and she had been worrying about us. The tumour was growing longer instead of fatter, and they were still worried about it interfering with Theo’s blood flow as the tumour was causing a lot of pressure in his heart.
I was told that Oxford University Hospital head cardiologists and Southampton head cardiologists had been having a meeting about Baby Theo, and if he survived until I was 30 weeks pregnant, they would give me a c-section and operate straight away.
A few hospital appointments later the cardiologists had another meeting. They decided that as the pressure in his heart was high but stable, and as he was really too small to operate on, they would only do it as a last resort for him. We were told that if he survived until I was 34 weeks pregnant they would take him out then. But I had to have fetal echo appointments every week from 30 weeks pregnant. I was also told to prepare and starve myself before each appointment as I might need an emergency c-section if the pressure in his heart got any worse or if the tumour grew fatter.
The pressure in Theo’s heart grew slowly and steadily but didn’t seem to affect his growth in any way. Theo shocked the doctors again by surviving and thriving. We were told his heart would not take the pressure of birth, so he would be delivered by c-section at 37 weeks all being well. He would have to be in a special care baby unit for three weeks at least as his heart wouldn’t work properly after birth due to all the tumours, but they also explained that the tumours would regress after birth.
After Theo’s delivery he only had to stay in SCBU for three days because his heart was working normally and he was feeding well.
Theo was talked about by so many heart specialists that they all came to visit him in SCBU just to see for themselves how well he was doing. They couldn’t believe it, and one of the doctors even wrote a presentation on him, as they said his heart should not have really coped with all the tumours and their postitioning.
Theo was allowed home on the condition that if he looked strange or blue that we would phone an ambulance straight away, and that he was to go back for appointments every week.
Theo continued to thrive at home. We received confirmation that Theo did have TSC2 when he was three weeks old as they had taken blood from his cord at delivery.
I was ecstatic that Theo was still with me. He was a fighter and had survived against all the odds.
Theo did worry us for a while as he didn’t smile until he was ten weeks old and didn’t give a full on belly laugh until he was eight months old. I am very pleased to say that Theo is growing well, and though he gets a bit behind on his development, he then seems to catch up really quickly.
Theo has ash leaf spots on his legs and belly and sometimes stares off into space, which could be absence seizures. I try to catch them on camera to show the doctors, which is just hilarious as they only last 30 seconds, and by the time I get my camera, he has snapped out of it. He has had an MRI and we know he has multiple tumours in his brain and still some in his heart, but he is the happiest baby around. He’s always smiling. He is 10 months old now and he loves to cruise around the furniture, dribbling on everything as he goes. I think he would walk all day if I let him.
He loves his sleep and has slept through the night since he was a month old. He loves Mickey Mouse and he waves his arms and legs every time he sees Mickey on the television.
We live in hope that TS has affected Theo enough now and won’t affect him anymore.
Love you lots my gorgeous little boy! x x