YOUR HEALTH: Recreating a heart to give a kid a fighting chance

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Riding a bike might not seem like a big deal for most ten year olds, but for Ethan Bradley, it's a huge milestone.

When mom Katrina was pregnant, doctors told her Ethan probably wouldn't survive his birth.

"We didn't go out and buy all the cute little boy clothes and toys because the chance of him actually coming home was so slim," said his mother Kristina Bradley.

But Ethan did come home, however his short life hasn't been easy.

He was born with a congenital heart defect called Heterotaxy Syndrome.   The organs in his chest were missing or in the wrong place and his oxygen levels were only around 55 percent, making even the simplest activities impossible.

"Before my surgery, I couldn't do anything," Ethan remembered.

Nearly one out of every 100 babies is born with some type of congenital heart defect.   Some of these can be mild, others can be life-threatening.

"We needed some way of getting more blood flow to his lungs and doing that safely in a heart that had nothing right about it," explained Dr. Kenneth Zahka, pediatric cardiologist with the Cleveland Clinic.

So Cleveland Clinic doctors used state-of-the art imaging to print a 3-D replica of Ethan's heart.   Being able to see inside the 3-D structure allowed doctors to create a surgical plan to fix the heart.

"The gist of the operation is rerouting on the inside to allow the blue blood to go to the lungs, that's where it's supposed to go, and the pink blood to come out of the heart to the body into the aorta," said Dr. Hani Najm, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon.

The surgery was a success.   Ethan's oxygen levels jumped to 95%.

He went from wheelchair bound... to shooting hoops a year later.

"They cut open my chest and then, and then fixed my heart," he said.

"He has energy like he never has before, so it was a completely different kid," said his mother Kristina.

Ethan will probably need more surgeries down the road, but for now, he's enjoying a smooth ride.

OPEN-HEART SURGERY:   Any type of surgery where the chest is cut open and surgery is performed on the arteries, muscles, or valves of the heart is known as open-heart surgery.   Coronary artery bypass grafting is the most common type of heart surgery done on adults. Open-heart surgery is sometimes called traditional heart surgery.   Today, many new procedures can be performed with only small incisions, and not wide openings.   This term 'open-heart' can be misleading in these circumstances.   It may be done when a patient suffers from hardening of the arteries, or to repair damage or abnormal areas of the heart, and to implant medical devices to help the heart beat properly, among other things.   Risks for open-heart surgery include but are not limited to chest wound infection, heart attack or stroke, chest pain and low fever, blood loss or clotting, and even pneumonia.    (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/open-heart-surgery#procedure3)

If this story impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.