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Oxford boy awaits heart transplant

Dylan Hixon, 3, needs a new heart (click for larger version)
May 26, 2010 - Oxford residents Monica and Douglas Hixon have watched one of their 3-year-old twin sons suffer from numerous health problems from the moment he was born.

Now, they will have to sit back, wait and hope that a new heart will become available for little Dylan.

Dylan has been at the top of the transplant list since April after spending nearly eight minutes in cardiac arrest earlier this year.

His doctors at Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor think that a heart transplant will help fix a medical condition that Dylan has had since birth.

Dylan was diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries, which is a cogenital heart defect that occurs when the large vessels that take blood away from the lungs, or the body, are connected.

In a normal heart, the oxygen poor blood returns to the right atrium from the body and travels through the right ventricle and is then pumped through the pulmonary artery into the lungs, where it receives oxygen. Oxygen rich blood returns to the left atrium from the lungs and passes into the left ventricle and is pumped into the aorta out to the body.

Dylan's condition is the exact opposite of a normal heart.

In connected transposition of the great arteries, the aorta is connected to the right ventricle, while the pulmonary artery is connected to the left ventricle.

This causes the oxygen poor blood to return to the right artium from the body and pass through the right artium and ventricle and go towards the misconnected aorta back to the body, while the oxygen rich blood passes through the left artium and ventricle and travels through the pulmonary artery and back to the lungs.

Two separate circuits are formed, one taking the oxygen poor blood that came from the body back to the body and the oxygen rich blood back to the lungs.

Just two days after being born, he had to have his first open heart surgery according to his mother Monica.

On June 30, 2008, his doctors tried to fix the problem by preforming a double switch on Dylan, where they stopped and cooled his heart in order to disconnect the aorta and pulmonary arteries in order to reconnect them to their proper ventricles.

"When he had the surgery, he didn't do very well. He went on life support for five days and suffered a mild stroke from being on life support," Monica said.

Monica added that he spent the next two months in the hospital, where he received a pacemaker and feeding tube.

Over the next year his condition worsened as he got older. He would go in and out of the hospital multiple times with heart failure.

"This year in January he just started getting really sick and he was in the hospital for maybe a month with heart failure, so they (doctors) did an echo on him and found out that his heart wasn't working very well and they were considering the possibility of doing a heart transplant," Monica said.

Monica asked the doctors if there were any other possibilities they could try before doing a transplant, so they decided to change his pacemaker.

"So they changed his pacemaker and for a month-and-a-half he was reliant on a picc line to help his heart breathe better," she said.

Dylan finally started getting better at the beginning of March, much to the delight of his parents and special education teacher Meegan Raynor, who teaches newborns to three-year-olds at Lakeville Elementary two days a week.

However, both Monica and Raynor began to notice that Dylan was getting worse over the course of the month.

"She started noticing symptoms again, like his hands and feet were getting cold again and he started coughing again because he fluids were building up," Raynor said.

"He was getting weak, wasn't walking very well and wasn't eating as much," Monica added.

So she decided to take Dylan to a pediatrican in Oxford, who double checked his oxygen level, which came back normal, and sent him for some bloodwork and x-rays at the Beaumont Clinic in Lake Orion.

Later that night she received a phone call from the pediatrican saying that his x-rays came back normal and that Dylan did not have pneumonia; however she got an e-mail the next morning from Dylan's cardiologist saying that he was having more heart failure and she needed to bring him in right away.

He was admitted to the hospital the following day, where he went into cardiac arrest for nearly eight minutes because of how sick his heart was.

After successfully reviving him, doctors determined that Dylan might have an enlarged heart that was obstructing his lungs and airways, so they placed him on a ventilator to help him breathe.

Doctors also might place him on a machine that will help pump his heart once he comes off the ventilator.

As of Monday, May 24, Dylan was off the ventilator and was moved from the Intensive Care Unit to the moderate floor, which is one step below the ICU.

While all of this has been happening with Dylan, Monica and Douglas have been wondering about what to do with Dylan's twin brother David, who is perfectly healthy.

Currently, David stays with a friend of the family while Monica is at the hospital and Douglas works. "I have to go back and pick up David and stay with him and then go back to the hospital the next day," Monica said.

Monica stated that they were financially stable right now and that the only assistance she could think of was trying to find a program for David to go into a couple of days a week. "If we could drop him off around 9 in the morning and pick him up around five, that would be great," Monica said. "Pretty much David is the key right now and he needs to have a normal life."

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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