DERBY, Kan. (KSNW) – Heart conditions don’t discriminate between adult hearts or child hearts.
Many times doctors will find a defect before birth or soon after, like doctors did with little Breckyn Croley.
Doctors knew Breckyn would be born with a defect affecting her esophagus, but doctors didn’t find her heart condition until they had the opportunity to examine her after delivery.
The discovery instantly changed Breckyn’s course of treatment.
Doctors had done a fetal echo to check Breckyn’s heart while she was in utero, but they never found it.
After Breckyn was born, doctors soon found she had complete atrioventricular canal defect.
That means there was a big hole in the center of her heart affecting all four chambers, meaning the oxygnated blood and deoxygenated blood would mix.
Breckyn’s condition meant their little family was heading up to Children’s Mercy in Kansas City barely two days after Breckyn was born.
“Those days were a blur,” recalls Laura Croley, Breckyn’s mom. “I just remember being in shock. I had already prepared for being in the hospital but this was a whole new ball game, being three hours from home and not knowing anything about this heart defect.”
Despite the diagnosis, Breckyn’s heart did well soon after birth and doctors hoped to let her grow as big as possible before doing corrective surgery, so doctors tried unsuccessfully treating what’s called her esophageal atresia first.
The condition meant Breckyn’s esophagus didn’t connect to her stomach.
That procedure stressed Breckyn’s heart and lungs and she would end up on what’s called ECMO – a treatment that uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the baby’s bloodstream.
“ECMO is never, it’s not usually a good thing,” said Laura.
Now 10 months old, doctors chose to go ahead with Breckyn’s heart surgery.
“They take her in a few days later for her repair and everything was successful,” explains Laura. “They only repaired one of the holes because it was a pop-off because of the high pressure in her heart and lungs.”
Two days after surgery Breckyn was off ECMO but as she started waking up, doctors noticed she wasn’t moving her left side and determined Breckyn had a stroke at some point while on ECMO.
Breckyn started therapy and even started getting off some of her medications from surgery.
During that process, Breckyn stopped breathing and doctors left her parents with two choices: back on ECMO or wait and see.
“We chose to put our faith in God and let it play out the way Breckyn wanted it to, but she wasn’t getting better within about a week,” said Laura.
This time doctors feared Breckyn wouldn’t make it, so Breckyn’s parents asked the chaplain to baptize her.
Laura said the next day Breckyn started improving and was able to head into surgery three days later and even recovered well.
All this just after her first birthday.
All time spent living in Kansas City.
“I lived there and my husband came back and forth on the weekends, and we have lots of family and friends that came up and showed their support,” recalls Laura. “It was a whole life adjustment, but it became my normal. Toward the end it wasn’t so bad anymore.
Now, there’s daily doctor appointments and therapy appointments, and a nurse that helps Breckyn’s parents stay on top of her medications and treatments.
But mom and dad say they’re thrilled with how far Breckyn’s come.
“Breckyn is doing fabulous today. Her heart is stable, she will need another heart surgery eventually one day. We don’t have a good timeline when that will be but she is thriving at home. She is starting to walk even with that stiff left side.”
Breckyn’s also starting to talk and knows dozens of words in sign language.
“We try to take her to do everything a normal family would do. It’s a lot harder because we have a lot of stuff to bring with us but just to get her those experiences and memories, explains Laura.
Last June, Breckyn was honored at the Wichita Heart Walk on the WSU campus.
Her family now well aware of all the work the American Heart Association does to fund critical research to find treatments and cures for kids like Breckyn.
And as this family looks forward, this fashion diva toddler now has the excitement of a new baby sister due to arrive next month.
“You have to have a positive outlook. You can’t sit here and dwell on every little thing that’s happened. Yeah it would have been nice to avoid the stroke, yeah it would have been nice to avoid ECMO but those things happened. They’re in the past and we’re moving on from there,” said Laura.