When Joshua Haskins passed away earlier this month there was a great deal of controversy. This post is not about Circumcision safety issues, but about a related and equally important topic.

Joshua’s mother is heartbroken – she’s supposed to be her child’s advocate, his defender, but now he’s gone and she blames herself. But I don’t – she had been a Heart Mom for seven weeks. There was a lot that Jill Haskins didn’t know, including one critical fact that I didn’t mention.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a hernia. A hernia can be fixed with a simple operation;  when my dad had his hernia repaired it required an overnight hospital stay, but even that may not be required anymore. The average hernia can be repaired pretty easily, but mine can’t.

My Cardiologist has vetoed a hernia repair more than once, because my blood oxygenation level (the familiar PulseOx reading) is low. A Heart Healthy person will register a PulseOx of nearly 100%; but mine is normally 80 to 82%. “I don’t have any doubt we can put you to sleep,” my Cardiologist says. “The real challenge is waking you back up!”

Not only is anesthesia an issue, there’s more. “I could spend all day describing your cardiac anatomy to the operating team,” my heart doctor continues. “And I don’t know if they would understand it any better when I finished.” That’s quite a statement, considering my doctor has won several teaching awards in his career. I’m 44, and one of the open heart repairs I have had has changed greatly over the years. Another one just isn’t done anymore – there are only three places that I know you can find it: 1) in a musty old surgical textbook; 2) in the brain of a very old cardiac surgeon; and 3) in my chest.

If my hernia were to cause enough trouble that it had to be repaired, I couldn’t just have it done anywhere. I can’t run the risk of having a surgeon who has done this operation 12,759 times before and considers me just another patient, because I’m not. Because of my heart, the plan is to go to Emory University Hospital and have my hernia repaired with a Congenital Heart Surgeon in the room, just in case of trouble. Afterwards they would keep me in the Intensive Care Unit for at least 24 hours – again just in case.

I know this… and I never mentioned it to Joshua’s parents. I don’t recall them mentioning the circumcision to me before it occurred, but that doesn’t matter. I should have said “Look, with Joshua’s heart, there is never going to be a ‘simple’ medical procedure. More than likely he’ll even need antibiotics before and after he sees the dentist, so you really need to think about any kind of operation or procedure that can be avoided.”

But I didn’t say that.

We are each put on this Earth for a reason, to accomplish something. Perhaps Joshua’s task was to remind us all that when you have a Congenital Heart Defect, no medical procedure can be considered “routine.”

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3 Responses to “Joshua”

  1. jtousey Says:

    Thanks for posting this, Steve. Your words are good for all of us to hear. My heart baby is a girl, so we never had to face the Haskins’ choice, but there are a number of “routine” things that are tricky for us. C needed a urine catheter a few weeks ago, and the doctor gave her the prophylactic antibiotic for that. And the poor child will probably never get her ears pierced!
    Thank you for your constant vigilance for those of us who are coming behind you.

  2. Ellingerfamily Says:

    I remember when my son had his tonsils taken out that with his heart and airway he ended up on a ventilator in the ICU for a week. Several more days followed in the surgical unit. It had to be done as Nathan was in right ventricular failure and his airway was the major cause. The surgeons were more comfortable with the tonsils than the jaw surgery that followed 9 months later. My daughter had her tonsils out a year later and left 1 1/2 hours after surgery and went home to ride her bike.

    I appreciate the advice you give on this blog and the information that helps us heart parents to feel more empowered because of the knowledge we are getting. You do a great job!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    A hernia repair was what ‘tipped the scales’ for my 37-year-old husband with tricuspid atresia. He didn’t leave the hospital until he had a new heart. Darn hernia!

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