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‘Owen’s First Heartiversary’ celebrates life-saving surgery

by Caroline Sealey

DRAYTON - A routine medical appointment for four-month-old Drayton resident Owen Drost turned into a month-long hospital stay.

During that month, Owen underwent life saving heart surgery.

Owen was born on Oct. 20, 2016 with multiple congenital heart defects, including a double outlet right ventricle, large ventricle septal defect and tetralogy of fallot.

The birth took place at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto to allow medical staff to monitor the infant.

“Owen’s conditions are not genetic,” said  his mother Stephanie Drost. “Statistics indicate that one out of 100 babies born in Canada have a heart condition.”

On Feb. 6, 2017, during a routine cardiologist appointment at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Owen’s oxygen saturation levels plummeted and he started to turn blue.

Emergency room staff stabilized Owen. Tests indicated that he had tetralogy of fallot, a condition involving the formation of bundles that are blockages in the heart. Owen had experienced what is commonly called a tet spell, when he turned blue.

Admitted to hospital under quarantine, additional tests revealed Owen had respiratory syncytial virus,  a common virus that can be serious when contracted by high risk babies.

Three days later, on Feb. 9, doctors were considering releasing Owen. That evening, he experienced another tet spell with oxygen levels dropping to 40mm of mercury, far below the normal of 80 to 100 mm.

As Owen continued having tet spells with oxygen levels recorded in the low 20s, he was transferred to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

“Both hospitals were amazing and we were thankful that Owen received such awesome care,” said Stephanie.

Initially, Owen was scheduled for open heart surgery at six months of age, as the heart is larger and easier to operate on. Because of the frequency and severity of the tet spells he was experiencing, the surgical team began discussions on moving the date forward.

A 10-minute walk from the hospital, Ronald McDonald House became a home away from home for Owen’s parents Stephanie and Matt. The couple’s other two children Ethan and Adam stayed with their grandparents during the ordeal.

The Sick Kids Bravery Bead Program, run by the hospital’s women’s auxiliary, gives each patient a strand for beads. The strand contains beads with the patient’s name and beads that represent each brave test, procedure or poke the child receives - a keepsake that tells the child’s story.

On Feb. 20, Owen had two back-to-back tet spells that left him clinging to life. The spells prompted the surgical team to reschedule Owen’s surgery for the following day.  

“It was one of the scariest times of our lives, not knowing if Owen was going to make it, “ said Stephanie.  

“True to the meaning of his name, warrior, Owen fought for his life.”

After a successful five hour surgery, Owen was placed in the cardiac critical care unit. After major cardiac surgery, he was heavily sedated to allow his body to recover. A temporary external pacemaker regulated his heart rate and rhythm. The medical team gradually removed medications, the pacemaker, drains, breathing tubes, wires and cords.  

By Feb. 27, Owen was moved to the cardiac care floor where the family was educated on care protocols for his return home. On March 2, he was discharged.    

“Owen continues to have regular appointments and will for the remainder of his life. His heart is functioning well but it is not a normal heart, “ Stephanie said.   

As Stephanie reflects back on this time last year, the one emotion that stands out is gratitude. She is grateful Owen fought for his life, for answered prayers, a strong support system, medical care and for the surgeon and medical team who saved his life.

Stephanie ponders how to properly thank someone, or in Owen’s case, an entire team, for saving her son’s life? She decided the best way to thank Owen’s medical team is to ensure that the team can continue to save the lives of critically ill children, making sure they have funding for research, proper medical equipment, and the training and resources available to do so.

In order to accomplish this the family will be hosting “Owen’s First Heartiversary,” a one-year celebration of Owen’s life saving open heart surgery.

“It’s important to me to celebrate Owen’s upcoming ‘heartiversary,’ but at the same time, it’s important to me to ensure Sick Kids can continue to save the lives of critically ill children like Owen,” Stephanie explained.

A  community  family event  in support of Sick Kids Hospital, Owen’s First Heartiversary will take place on Family Day, Feb. 19, from 10 to 11:30 am at the PMD arena in Drayton.  

The event includes skating, cake, a photo booth, silent auction and children’s activities.

Donations for the Labatt Family Heart Centre, Sick Kids will be accepted with Scotia Bank matching 100 per cent of the donations up to $5,000.

For more information  contact Stephanie  at 519-638-2495 or or go to the Owen’s First Heartiversary Celebration Facebook page.

February 9, 2018


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