Emmett’s Journey: Treatment for tetralogy of Fallot

Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 6:07 AM CDT
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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – At just 17-months-old, one little boy has spent nearly half his life inside a hospital, diagnosed with a rare heart defect before he was even born. Discover how doctors were able to save him.

Each year, only approximately 1,600 infants are diagnosed with tetralogy of Fallot. The rare condition is caused by a group of four heart defects, which impact blood flow in the body. The only treatment for this potentially fatal condition is surgery.

Seventeen-month-old Emmett Watanabe is getting bigger and stronger every day, and mom and dad couldn’t be more relieved.

“The fact that he babbles, rolls around like that, plays with toys,” says Emmett’s mom, Yatine Lee.

When Yatine was just 19 weeks pregnant with Emmett, he was diagnosed with tetralogy of Fallot, which is a rare condition involving a group of four heart defects.

Stanford Children’s Health pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Greg Adamson explains Emmett’s condition.

“There’s a large hole in the heart and then, there’s some amount of blockage of blood flow being able to get to the lungs.”

Emmett’s case quickly became exceptional. At 27 weeks, he was born by emergency C-section after the placenta began shutting down and his growth was stunted.

“He weighed only about 600 grams, which is about the size of a 14-ounce soda bottle. And at that point, his heart was only the size of a grape,” Dr. Adamson emphasizes.

In addition, his intestines had twisted and cut off their blood supply.

“It was a Saturday night at ten o’clock and we get called into the hospital,” Emmett’s mom, Yatine, recalls.

Doctors fixed one health crisis and then four days later, doctors placed a stent, less than a centimeter long, in Emmett to get blood to his lungs.

“We had never performed this procedure in a baby as small as Emmett,” Dr. Adamson mentions.

Two additional stents, and four months later, Emmett weighed seven pounds and was ready for open heart surgery and eight months after he was born, Emmett was ready to come home.

“Emmett is one of the biggest fighters I’ve ever seen,” Dr. Adamson says.

“To see where he is today, I think it’s pretty incredible,” Yatine exclaims.

Like many children with severe tetralogy of Fallot, Emmett will require two to three more surgeries until he stops growing. Doctors will operate to replace his conduit, which acts as a pulmonary valve, with a larger sized one. Otherwise, Emmett is a completely happy

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