Hunter J. McArter | Heart Warrior of the Week
Hunter J. McArter is our #HeartWarrior of the Week! Hunter’s parents received the news that there was something very wrong with their son’s heart at the 20-week ultrasound. Turns out, there are many things wrong with his heart; he was diagnosed with tricuspid atresia type 2, transposition of the great arteries, interrupted aortic arch, ventricular septal defect, atrial septal defect and patent ductus arteriosus.
Hunter was born four weeks early on February 13th, 2017 and doctors immediately went to work to repair this baby boy’s heart. Due to the amount of surgeries and procedures he has undergone in such a short amount of time, little Hunter has only been outside of the hospital for 2 of the 5 months since he was born. He has already undergone three surgeries and is awaiting his fourth. His Mom describes him as her Prince Charming Heart Warrior, saying the following:
"My son inspires me because he has the purest and strongest heart. If he can smile after what he’s been through then so can I. He’s not like a lot of babies I know; he loves going on nature trails and people watching. He’s very curious about the world and he always welcomes people with a smile. He’s so full of life!"
About Hunter’s Diagnosis
Tricuspid Atresia Type II
This type of heart disease is when the tricuspid valve, which acts as an opening between the right atrium and right ventricle, is missing or abnormally developed. This blocks oxygen-depleted blood from being able to flow into the lungs to pick up oxygen, resulting in dangerously low oxygen-levels within the body.
Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)
In a normal heart, the aorta connects to the left ventricle and the pulmonary artery connects to the right ventricle. This normal connection allows blood to flow from the left ventricle to the pulmonary arteries which push blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen. Once the blood has picked up oxygen from the lungs, it goes back into the heart’s left ventricle and into the aorta where it is then dispersed throughout the body.
In a heart with TGA, the connection is just the opposite – aorta to right ventricle and pulmonary artery to left ventricle. Because of this abnormal connection, deoxygenated blood is re-circulated to the body before it has a chance to pick up oxygen from the lungs. At the same time, oxygen-rich blood is continuously being pumped from the heart to the lungs in a cyclical pattern, never dispersing the oxygenated blood throughout the body. This leaves the body with dangerously low oxygen levels.
Most babies are born with a small hole in between their left and right ventricles. After a few hours or days of life, the hole closes on its own. This hole is actually a critical component for some babies with TGA as it allows some oxygen-poor blood to mix with oxygen-rich blood, enabling the body to receive at least some oxygen. Often times, a balloon procedure is performed to enlarge or create this hole to improve the baby’s oxygen levels. Doctors go in through an artery in the leg and use a small medical instrument to create a larger hole between the ventricles. The repair for TGA is an open-heart surgery where doctors cut the aorta and pulmonary valve and place them in their proper positions.
Interrupted Aortic Arch
This is a very rare heart defect (affecting 3 per million live births) in which the aorta is not completely developed. There is a gap between the ascending and descending thoracic aorta. The aorta is the main blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood to the body, it starts at the top of the heart and runs all the way down to the abdomen. With interrupted aortic arch, the first part of the aorta does not connect to the aorta in the lower part of the body. This abnormal configuration prevents normal blood flow throughout the heart and the rest of the body.
Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)
A normal heart has an inner wall (septum) that separates the two lower chambers of the heart. This septum prevents oxygenated and non-oxygenated blood from mixing between the two sides of the heart. A VSD is a hole in the septum between the heart’s two lower chambers, called ventricles. The hole allows oxygen-rich blood in the left ventricle to mix with oxygen-poor blood in the right ventricle, causing higher pressure in the heart and reduced oxygen to the body.
Normally, the left side of the heart only pumps blood to the body and the heart’s right side only pumps blood to the lungs. With VSD, blood can travel across the hole from the left ventricle to the right ventricle and out into the lung’s arteries. If the VSD is large, the extra blood being pumped into the lung’s arteries makes the heart and lungs work harder and the lungs can become congested.
Smaller VSD’s can close on their own as the child grows, while larger holes usually require surgical repair. The most common operation involves placing a patch over the hole, which prevents shunting – the movement of oxygenated blood from the left to the right ventricle.
This is the most common type of CHD, occurring in 1 to 3 out of every 1000 births; it is more common in premature births. VSD accounts for 25-30% of all CHD’s. If it is left untreated, it can cause pulmonary hypertension which can result in lung disease. VSD can also lead to a serious illness called bacterial endocarditis, an infection affecting the inner lining of the heart.
Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)
An atrial septal defect is a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart (atria). Large and long-standing ASD’s can damage your heart and lungs while small defects may never cause a problem at all. An adult who has had an undetected ASD may have a shortened life span from heart failure or high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs. This is why early detection is so important. Like VSD, ASD is one of the most common types of congenital heart defects, almost 2000 babies are born with this condition in the U.S. every year.
Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
With PDA, abnormal blood flow occurs between two of the major arteries connected to the heart (the aorta and the pulmonary artery). Before birth, these arteries are connected by a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus. This vessel is an essential part of fetal blood circulation. Within minutes or up to a few days after birth, the vessel usually closes up as part of the normal changes occurring in the baby's circulation. In some babies, however, the ductus arteriosus remains open. This opening allows oxygen-rich blood from the aorta to mix with oxygen-poor blood from the pulmonary artery. This can put a strain on the heart and increases blood pressure in the lung arteries.