Olivia: answers to questions, fears and worries

(© Private)

Hello, my name is Olivia and I was born on Oct 14, 1999. I was diagnosed as having a heart defect just before my second birthday. I have a grade 1 aortic valve stenosis, grade 3 aortic valve insufficiency, and I later developed endocarditis of the aortic valve. As time went by, the leak in my cardiac valve worsened. The doctors told my parents that at some point I would need an operation. Anyone with a sick child will be able to imagine how my parents felt when they heard this news. So I’ll let my mum, Claudia, tell you about the Ross operation that I had. We knew that at some point Olivia would have to have this Ross operation.

I read a lot about the procedure on the Internet, but I still had a lot of agonising questions: Will everything be alright? Will Olivia have a lot of pain? What will we do if she dies? We were actually at the end of our tether already and things hadn’t even started yet! I remembered that the university clinic holds information evenings about heart operations in children. We took Olivia with us, and I am really glad that we went. We found answers to the questions, fears and worries that had been plaguing us for weeks. We were also allowed to take a look at the intensive-care unit. I had such horrific pictures in my head: lots of tubes, pain, maybe even blood, but it was not like that at all. The children in the ward looked relaxed and happy. Things didn’t seem so terrible anymore after all. That’s not to say that we weren’t still anxious! But the feeling of “they’re doing everything they possibly can for Olivia” comforted us a great deal. The social worker at the hospital gave Olivia a copy of “Anna’s heart diary”, which proved to be fantastic. At home we looked at the pictures of the operation again and again, and talked about it a lot.

Olivia at Uni Giessen
(© Private)

Then the day of the operation came: Feb 26, 2007. Olivia was not scared at all. We went with her to the ward where she was met by the doctors, who were really sweet to her. She was so brave! My husband was crying, but I was very composed (which surprised me). Then we he had to let her go. Once again, we had so many questions and fears: how will it go? What are they doing now? I will never forget how it felt: my baby is being operated on! We could not wait—we would have gone mad! So we went into town, even though in our hearts we were always with our child. We talked to each other a lot; talking about the fears and the emotions was really important. Time passed really fast; Olivia was in the operating theatre for 8 hours. We were allowed to see her after a further 3 hours. I was so afraid to touch her because of the way that she was lying there. There were tubes all over the place, but Olivia looked so pretty and serene. She had colour in her cheeks. Thank goodness: she had come through well after a major operation. While she was still in intensive care, I would visit during the day and then drive home in the evenings. I would phone the hospital on the same evening and the following morning to ask how Olivia was. They were always really nice on the phone. Olivia had a lot of nausea, but she never once cried and was always cooperative. She was allowed to leave hospital after 9 days.

I would like to say thank you to the university clinic for all the excellent information and for “Anna’s heart diary”. We are very proud of our daughter and feel privileged to be her parents. We would like to send our best wishes for good health to all children and their parents who are facing a heart operation.

Author: Claudia (Olivia’s mother)