Heart surgery can exhaust a patient. But when the patient is a 4-year-old girl, and the Coyotes’ Howler walks in the door, there’s only one thing to do. Howl.
So that’s what Mesa resident Sidney Lewis did Wednesday, just about 24 hours after doctors at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa repaired a hole in her heart.
Sidney’s bubbly personality presents itself even without her favorite team’s mascot in the room. Smiley, smart and attentive, Sidney was completely aware of what she was going to go through in the days prior to her surgery. It was only the fifth time this particular heart surgery was performed at Cardon Children’s, which opened its pediatric cardiac surgery program late last fall.
“She asked me, ‘Mommy, are they going to cut me?’” mom Buffy Lewis said the day prior to surgery.
After taking in mom’s affirmative answer, Sidney responded, “Mom, are they going to put their hands in me? Their hands are going to get blood on them.”
“She’s just one of those children who you can’t candy-coat it,” Buffy said.
Shortly after Sidney was born, Buffy and her husband, Garret, found out their baby girl had a hole in her heart. The condition, known as an atrial septal defect, occurs as the fetus develops in the womb.
In some cases there are no symptoms. But in Sidney, it was discovered because of a heart murmur heard by her pediatrician. Most cardiologists recommend parents wait to repair it, with hopes it will fix itself.
The Lewis family started annual visits to the cardiologist.
“Each year I expected them to say, ‘It’s gone. You’re good to go,’” Buffy said. “But when she was 3, he said, ‘I think we need to consider surgery.’”
Buffy cried for two days.
“You just don’t want to go through that with your child,” she said.
Their cardiologist recommended the family meet Dr. Chris Derby. Derby, a veteran pediatric surgeon who also practices at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, started the pediatric cardiology surgery program at Cardon Children’s. After a visit with Derby and the cardiac program coordinator, Christy Riddle, the decision to go through with the surgery at Cardon was made.
“Our decision was easy. She took to Dr. Derby, and Christy adopted her that day,” Buffy said. “Since that day she’s asked about them, talked about them, prayed for them every day.”
Bright and early Tuesday morning, Riddle took Sidney back to the operating room where Derby performed the three and a half hour operation to repair the hole between the two upper chambers of her heart.
She was doing so well, that Riddle anticipated Sidney would be home by the weekend.
“It went beautifully. She’s sitting up. She’s eating. Her heart looks good post surgery. The hole is closed totally,” she said.
Next up for Sidney will be a check on her incision in a week, followed by heart monitoring every three to six months for the first year. After that, it’s back to annual cardiology visits.
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