A family history of health problems always prompted Jill Nolte-White to closely monitor the health of her three children, even before they were born. Prenatal testing never indicated any red flags to give Jill reason to worry, but when her youngest son, Russell White, turned blue shortly after he was born, she knew the tests had missed something.
Twelve hours later Russ was diagnosed with critical pulmonary valve stenosis. His pulmonary valve was too narrow for blood to pass through from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery. Without blood flow through the pulmonary artery, Russ’s small lungs could not receive an adequate amount of oxygenated blood.
Russ underwent balloon valvuplasty to open the narrowed valve. This technique is noninvasive and uses cardiac catheterization to treat pulmonary valve stenosis. During the procedure a small, tube (catheter) was inserted through a vein in Russ’s tiny leg and led to the narrowed valve in his heart. Once the catheter was through the valve, a balloon was inflated to push open the valve and restore blood flow.
“I was so relieved they were able to open his valve using this technique and did not have to resort to open heart surgery,” said Jill. “I was a cardiac nurse at the time and have seen the complications and recovery time associated with open heart surgery.”
Following the procedure, Russ was in the intensive care unit (ICU) for a week and the hospital a total of 10 days. He had almost no problems once he was home except minor difficulty feeding, which he quickly overcame.
That was nine years ago.
Today, Russ visits the cardiologist once a year and has a clear bill of health. At some point he may need to have another procedure or surgery on his valve, but for the time being his doctor has approved all activity.
“He loves running around and playing baseball and hockey,” said Jill. “He’s fearless. One time he was outside climbing trees and didn’t realize how high he was until he was too scared to come back down!”
Even though he was only a newborn at the time of his diagnosis and procedure, Russ understands what happened to him. During health day at Russ’s school, Jill was invited into his second-grade class, where she spoke about his experience and Russ proudly listened.
He also had the opportunity to meet other children who had been diagnosed with similar heart conditions while attending Camp Brave Heart.
“Russ returned home from Camp Brave Heart a little disappointed he didn’t have a scar on his chest like the other children,” said his mom. “He was the only one with a scar on his leg that he proudly showed off, but I think he felt a little left out!