Toddler to undergo third heart sugery

Published 10:32 am Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ethan Walker, 18 months, will undergo his third major surgery for a heart birth defect. He is the son of Joey and Ashley Walker of Courtland. SUBMITTED

COURTLAND—Ethan Walker looks like a normal 18-month-old with one exception.

His heart is taking a toll on him.

The son of Joey and Ashley Walker of Courtland, Ethan in September will undergo his third major surgery for a rare congenital heart defect. Most kids with the defect have the same surgery at 3 to 8 years of age. Ethan needs it sooner.

“He has grown so much,” Joey Walker said. “He’s such a big boy; it’s starting to take a toll on him. He’s starting to outgrow the (two previous) surgeries.”

Ethan was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a defect characterized by the partial or complete failure of the left side of the heart to develop —essentially leaving him with half of a heart.

At 6 days old, he underwent the first surgery and came through better than expected. However, a setback came in March 2010, when doctors in Norfolk discovered a rare infection in Ethan’s heart.

He was admitted to the hospital out of concern that the infection could lead to a stroke or heart attack. Surgery was done to remove the infection. At the same time, the doctor also preformed the second of three surgeries Ethan would have to undergo to keep his condition under control.

Now, as he continues to grow, it’s time for the third surgery. At 25 pounds, Ethan is big for his age, Joey Walker said.

“He is actually asking more of his heart than what his heart can do,” she said. “You can hear him breathing hard when you hear him walking. Ethan is such a little fighter.”

The 31-year-old learned about Ethan’s condition five months into her pregnancy.

“One option was to consider aborting, but really, in all, what we’ve gone through, it hasn’t been that horrible.”

Ethan’s long-term prognosis is unknown.

“He will always have half of a heart, but they find surgeries to fix these children,” Walker said. “I’ve met some 17- and 18-year-olds on Facebook. They say that maybe at 25 to 30 years old, he may need a heart transplant.”