It was supposed to be a routine 10-month checkup for Mallory, the adopted daughter and only child of Lauren and Coby Seckinger. While born healthy, her doctor said there were indications of a slight heart murmur.
“It’s probably nothing but I would feel more comfortable (with her) going to a specialist• Lauren Seckinger recalls the pediatrician saying. It was at that visit that the couple was told that Mallory In fact had two murmurs – one innocent, but the other not. With a likely hole in their daughter’s heart. the family assumed their daughter would need open heart surgery at some point and that they wouldn’t be able to simply monitor her.
Doctors explained to Lauren and Coby that once blood came in and was re-oxygenated. it could cause the right side of her heart to enlarge. potentially causing pressure later in life. While not typically caught until four or tlve years of age, Mallory’s diagnosis came much sooner.
After a third checkup by UF cardiologist Dr. Robert English, they were told that the right side of Mallory’s heart was far more enlarged than anticipated. 74 + 2015 Art & Antiques Show A surgical team indicated that there might be a vessel causing the enlargement. They also concluded there was no benefit in waiting to operate on Mallory. who was then 22 months old. “We talked about it and said, ‘let’s just do it: There were two holes and we had time to prepare. we had a year to know it was eventually going to happen.”
Following a case of croup the week prior to the original surgery date of December 9, the procedure was rescheduled for Christmas Eve. As events unfolded at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. it would be a Christmas the family long remembers. “We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas in the hospital. We had about 20 people in the waiting room, says Lauren. “Volunteers from Ronald McDonald House brought food for the family, as did a local Mom who lost a daughter in similar circumstances. They were Just lovely and helped the time pass.
Meanwhile, the operating team found a less than typical situation with their young patient. Pediatric cardiovascular surgeons Dr. Eric Ceithaml and Dr. Michael Shillingford Jed the surgery team that found seven misplaced vessels and two holes in Mallory’s heart – one large and one small.
“Of the estimated 230 cases the Wolfson cardiac team sees each year. Mallory’s particular condition is fairly rare. perhaps occurring once annually; says Dr. Shillingford. “In layman’s terms. she had a complex congenital heart defect that was characterized by a large hole in the receiving chambers of the heart and an anomaly of the veins coming into the heart in a wrong position.
” The risk of the condition is that gradually over time the heart dilates and the patient goes into a progressive state of heart failure. Open-heart surgery has an operative risk on the order of 5 to 10 percent and requires an average of eight people in the OR. As lead surgeon, Dr. Shillingford patched the small hole and rerouted the misplaced vessels. three now going through the left atrial valve and the other four going to the right atrium.
“So they basically reconstructed her heart,” recalls Lauren. “When they came in and drew that picture for me. I just lost it. How did they do that?” After celebrating Christmas at the hospital with the help of Wolfson nurses and others, the couple took their little girl home five days after the surgery, only after she was visited by all of her doctors and celebrated her second birthday.
Mallory. now a preschooler, calls the scar on her chest her “booboo” and explains. “they fixed my heart” in reference to the doctors at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Mallory, described by her mother as an independent and strongwilled little girl, turns 4 on December 26.