Mark NIELSEN / Prince George Citizen August 29, 2014 07:26 PM – See more at:
Five weeks after receiving a new heart, 11-month-old Logan Vandermeulen is “doing wonderful” and appears on his way to returning home to Prince George in the next couple of weeks.
“He has lots of energy,” said mother Veronica Vandermeulen, 28, over the phone from Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver. “A normal baby energy level.”
Doctors first noticed a problem with his heart when Veronica was 26 weeks pregnant. A C-section was performed three weeks prior to his expected due date and a pacemaker was installed the next day.
But within a few months they noticed some changes in his behaviour and he began to lose weight.
Initially, doctors thought Logan had a bronchial infection but an X-ray revealed his heart was bigger than expected. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – a deterioration of the heart muscle that can lead to heart failure.
In February, just before he was about to turn five months old, he became the first baby in B.C. to be put on an artificial pumping device, known as a Berlin heart, to keep his blood flowing, and was put in the waiting list for a heart transplant.
On July 22, and none too soon because his health was starting to fail, a donor was found and the youngster went through a six-hour operation at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where he had also been put on the Berlin heart about a half year before.
He is at least the second B.C. baby to have been given a heart transplant and Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi, who performed the surgery as well as installed the Berlin heart, said they’re becoming more common although they remain trickier to perform than similar operations on adults.
“It’s very gratifying that he’s doing so well after such a long wait,” Gandhi said. “I’m proud that he did so well when he was on the Berlin heart and sort of cruised through his heart transplant operation.”
Logan is not out of the woods yet. He is on medication that suppresses his immune system to keep his body from rejecting the organ but that reduces his defences against other ailments.
“It’s the first year that’s most crucial for germs and stuff,” Veronica said. “After that they say the immune system tends to try and cope with other things.”
Because of what he has been going through, Logan has not yet learned to crawl but was busy Friday jumping up and down in his Jumparoo, his mother said. Indeed, she fully expects Logan will be out running, jumping and playing with the other kids by the time he’s old enough to attend school.
He’ll have three-year-old brother Eli to play with when he returns home but Veronica is expecting a big transition. Both he and his mother have been away from Prince George for eight months now.
“He’s been in a hospital for more than half his life…I think when he goes home it’ll be a strange thing for him,” she said.
On average, a transplanted heart lasts about 15 years although there have been people who have had their hearts for much longer. A biopsy is performed on the heart once a year to monitor its condition.
Veronica said her employer, Visions Optical, and her 38-year-old husband Jason’s employer, Long and McQuade, have been “phenomenal” in terms of support. And she said the David Foster Foundation were a big help with day-to-day expenses while they were away in Vancouver.
“My husband has to pay the mortgage and he has to feed my son and him as well, so without the David Foster Foundation we’d be in a hole, for sure.”
The family has done some fundraising to provide for emergency expenses but rather than donate to them, Veronica suggested they donate to Ronald McDonald House, David Foster Foundation and “even the cardiac ward of the hospital.
“Because then it’s not just helping Logan it’s helping others as well,” she said.
They can also register to become organ donors at www.transplantbc.ca.
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