11 July 2005

The incident with the heart-lung machine.

The operation went well. Not only did they widen the narrow pulmonary vessel, they also took the opportunity to swap the shunt for a larger dimension. In this way, they bought Abbe some more time, until his next operation. And that’s brilliant. It means he will have the time to grow, become stronger and that he will get some peace and quiet for a while. It’s hard to say how long it will take but – about a year is rather a realistic guess, as far as I understand.

But the surgeon also told us something which was not as fun. During the operation, you use a heart-lung machine. It oxygenates the blood and pumps it around the body. In other words, it functions as the patient’s own heart and lungs, but outside the body, thus enabling you to turn the heart off while operating on it.

Just as they were ready to turn the heart lung machine off and transfer the blood in it back into Abbes body, something unexpected happened. In some way or another, a little bit of air entered the system and with that, out in Abbe’s veins. This is not good. The surgeon did say he was pretty convinced it was such a small amount that it wouldn’t affect Abbe, but he couldn’t guarantee it. And he seemed a bit upset with the actual incident. "I have operated on children’s hearts for 20 years and never seen this happen before. Now we need to review our procedures, so it can’t happen again".

I tried to focus as much as I could on the positive. That the actual procedure had been successful. My wife didn’t quite manage this, and I pulled her closer to me, to comfort her as best I could.

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