After his birth, doctors were able to get a clearer picture of Maverick’s heart condition. Maverick’s Swiss cheese heart had holes in the upper chambers, called atrial septal defects (ASDs) and VSDs in the lower chambers. Multiple holes are rare, and holes where many of Maverick’s were located, in the apex of the heart, known as apical VSDs, are rarer still.
His heart condition was making Maverick very sick. In a normal heart, oxygen-rich blood enters the left side of the heart from the lungs and goes out to the body while oxygen-poor blood enters the right side from the body and goes out to the lungs. The pressure on the left side is five times higher than on the right. With a porous wall like Maverick’s, the blood can mix, making the overall oxygen saturation level drop, and the pressure in the two sides equalizes, endangering the lungs and other organs.
“The holes have a cascade effect that leads to the damage of other organs,” explains Dr. Emile Bacha, chief of the Division of Cardiac, Thoracic, and Vascular Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and director of Congenital Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “So, it’s something you really don’t want to happen.”
Two weeks after birth, Maverick underwent surgery to fix a narrowed aorta and install a pulmonary artery (PA) band to regulate the blood flow between his heart and lungs, a temporary fix. After six weeks total in the hospital, the couple finally brought Maverick home — along with an IV pole, a basket full of meds, wound-care material for the surgery wounds in his chest and back, a nasogastric feeding tube he’d rely on for six months, and a long list of instructions. “We were just trying to absorb all the new medical terms we had never heard before and learning how to care for him,” says Brad.
The immediate challenges were daunting enough; the ones looming down the road were too difficult to fathom. Doctors told them that Maverick would probably outgrow his PA band in a year. Then he’d need a number of procedures culminating in the Fontan procedure, an operation that would replumb his heart into a single ventricle, leaving him to live with half a working heart. As a young adult, he’d need a heart transplant.