We Had to Take Our Son to a Pediatric Cardiologist

by Crystal Carder
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A few weeks ago, my mother’s intuition was at an all-time high. I don’t know why, but I knew something was a little off with my oldest son. He wasn’t acting sick. He was still playing fine, but something still seemed a bit off. He had this nagging dry cough that wouldn’t go away and he was up all night with it. So, when he got home from school, I finally decided he was going to the doctor. 

Normally, I take the kids into the doctor’s office, but this time I decided not to and I decided to let my husband do it. As I sat in the van with the other two kids, I wondered if the doctor would even do anything for a cough. After a long wait in the car, my husband and Cayden finally came out with the news that Cayden had strep throat. I seriously couldn’t believe it, Cayden wasn’t even acting sick. But that wasn’t all Michael had to tell me.

Apparently, while the Physician’s Assistant was listening to my son’s heart rate, she heard what sounded like a heart murmur. My son had never been diagnosed with one, so when my husband told her this, she went over to the family practice (in the same building) to get the doctor and let him listen. Unfortunately, by that time it was already almost 7 pm and the doctor had left for the day. She told my husband that the heart murmur could be there because he was sick, but it would be best to get it checked out by our family physician.

Of course, when my husband told me this, I’m was almost in tears. My family has a long history of heart problems, so all I could think about was “what-if?” The next day, we sent my other two children to school and I kept Cayden home and attempted to make an appointment with his family doctor. When I called our family doctor, they didn’t seem to care that he was only 8 with heart issues. Instead, they wanted us to wait an additional week to even get in to see the doctor. By this time, I was upset. I had been on the fence, for a while, about changing doctors, but this time they finally did it. That’s when I told my husband to call back to the urgent care and see if we could get seen by the doctor on the family physician’s side. They got us in within the next hour with an actual doctor.

During Cayden’s appointment, the doctor still heard the heart murmur. The doctor didn’t think there was any reason to worry, but because Cayden had never been diagnosed with a heart murmur before, he said the correct protocol would be to send him for a pediatric echo.

Since not everyone does pediatric echos, we had to do some digging to find somewhere that could get my son in fast. Thankfully, Ruby Memorial in Morgantown was able to see him the soonest, but I still wasn’t thrilled to have to use them. In the past, WVU’s pediatric doctors haven’t been my favorite, so I was pretty disappointed that we had to use them for a heart issue.

Thankfully, we got Cayden an appointment last Friday and it was probably one of the most insane appointments I have ever had to go to as a mother. Literally, a day before my son’s appointment, WVU Medicine called and wanted us to see a pediatric cardiologist. Up until then, we were only supposed to be scheduled for a pediatric echo. But after they explained that we would get the results right away, we decided there was no harm in seeing one, so we reluctantly agreed and set up an appointment with a cardiologist.  

During the appointment, Cayden actually had to have both Echo and EKG. We were only expecting the echo, but I was kind of thrilled they were being thorough. Especially, since you can never be too safe with kids.

When I finally went with Cayden back for the echo, it felt like it took forever! If there was ever one time I wish I knew what to look for on an ultrasound screen this was definitely it. I tried hard to stay calm for Cayden, but I just kept thinking about what they may find. Then another tech walked in and the tech doing my son’s echo asked him if he could see something on the picture and he said, “oh yeah, I can see that.” When he said that I immediately asked them, “is my son okay?” Of course, I know they can’t tell me what they see, so I knew they were lying when they nodded yeah and stopped talking. So, when the echo is finally over, Cayden and I are put back into the doctor’s waiting area and I’m trying my best not to panic. That’s when I hear the nurses talking in the hallway. They say, “she saw something on Carder’s echo she needs the doctor to look at.” Okay, by this point I definitely know somethings up. I desperately text Michael whos out in the waiting room with our other two kids and I tell him what I just heard. By now, we’re both praying and I’m trying to keep my cool so I don’t scare Cayden.

A lady finally comes into the room, I assume she’s the doctor, but no. She’s a 3-year resident she wants to look at Cayden…blah, blah, blah. I immediately ask her, “did you see anything on the echo?” She looks at her papers and says, “I’m only a student, I’m going to let the doctor explain, he knows more.” So, by now any doubt that something isn’t right is gone. I know they saw something, I just want answers.

When she finally leaves the room, it seemed like forever for the doctor to come in. But when he did, he doesn’t address the echo. Instead, he just tells me that his EKG was good and starts listening to my son’s heart rate. He hears something and lets his resident listen, but when he finally decides to talk he tells me Cayden is fine but they did see something on the echo. All I could do was ask, “is he okay?” 

Thankfully, Cayden is okay, but he will need to see a cardiologist again in 1-year. Cayden has what is called a bicuspid aortic valve. It’s something he was born with. The good thing is, it’s not a leaky valve. In fact, we don’t ever have to tell another doctor he has it. Cayden is fine. The only thing he questioned was how doctors missed a heart murmur for almost 9 years. He said Cayden was probably born with a heart murmur, it wasn’t new. Why doctors never said anything about it before is a mystery, but he did say, Cayden can act like a kid because he’ll be fine. He just wants to see us again in 1-year.

I seriously hope I never have to experience an appointment like that again. To all the parents of sick children, I do not understand how you do it every day – you are truly amazing! 

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