Family credits heart research with saving baby boy’s life

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 16, 2000

This year’s Heartwalk will have an extra special meaning for aBrookhaven family who has learned the importance of funding heartresearch projects.

Brad and Amy Smith believe without a doubt that theirfive-month-old son, Powell, is alive today because of the medicaladvancements made possible through the fundraising efforts of theAmerican Heart Association.

Their son was diagnosed at birth with transposition of the greatarteries, a serious heart condition where the pulmonary artery andaorta are reversed.

After weeks of hospitalization and two surgeries, he has fullyrecovered and will be able to enjoy a normal life. The miraculousrecovery of Powell prompted the American Heart Association torecognize him as Lincoln County’s Heartwalk Poster Child.

“He has such a wonderful story,” said Heartwalk Specialist BellaDouglas. “It just shows how much research has done in 20years.”

Not only will Powell appear in printed materials andadvertisements as the Heartwalk Poster Child, he will also lead theNovember 4 Heartwalk in his mother’s arms with his big grin andblue eyes. The walk will be held at the Brookhaven Exchange ClubPark.

Amy Smith is thankful for every opportunity she gets to hold herson now. She was not able to hold him until he was four days oldbecause of the seriousness of his condition. Even then it was inthe confinement of the hospital with tubes and wires attached toher son.

Doctors assure Powell’s family that the boy won’t behospitalized again, though, and he will be able to lead a healthy,normal life. That is something his parents were not sure of whenPowell was born on April 21, 2000.

Everything appeared normal during Amy’s pregnancy, but as soonas Powell was born on Good Friday, things did not look or soundgood.

“I noticed he didn’t cry immediately. He just made littlegrunting noises, which is a sign of respiratory distress,” saidAmy, who has a degree in nursing.

The doctors were quickly alarmed, not only at the noises, butalso because Powell was a bluish-gray color. Several pediatricdoctors were called to the hospital to decide what should be done,recalled Amy.

As Powell’s oxygen level dropped from 80 percent to just 39percent, the situation intensified. Powell was rushed to UniversityMedical Center (UMC) in Jackson, and a prayer chain was startedduring that crucial time.

“As soon as our parents found out, they started calling peopletelling them to pray for him,” said Brad about the efforts ofPowell’s grandparents, Jimmy and Ann Smith and Ricky and Betty JoSmith.

Powell’s oxygen level was dropping because the aorta wasreceiving venous blood returning from the body rather thanoxygenated blood from the lungs. The pulmonary artery was receivingoxygenated blood and transmitting it back to the lungs in aneedless recycling.

The defect usually proves fatal within a few hours unless thereis some mixing of oxygenated blood with venous blood.

Doctors were able to help Powell’s heart mix some of the bloodby giving him medicine to open the valves that usually close atbirth. Powell also underwent immediate surgery when he reached UMC.Doctors made a small hole in his heart so the blood would mix, butthat was only a temporary solution.

“It mixed the blood to buy him some time to get the arterialswitch in Cleveland,” said Amy.

Powell was taken to Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio when hewas only five days old. A heart specialist was flown to thehospital from California to perform the complicated surgery ofswitching the arteries back to the correct positions.

The surgery was difficult because Powell’s heart was small, asmost baby’s hearts are, which meant the arteries were about thesize of a piece of hair, said Brad.

The difficult surgical procedure has been developed over thelast decade.

“If it wasn’t for the American Heart Association, this procedurewould not have been possible,” said Amy.

Powell’s surgery was a success. He was breathing on his own, andhis heart was properly mixing his blood just hours after theprocedure.

He was brought back to Jackson on May 5, and five days later hecame back home to Brookhaven with his parents and three-year-oldbrother, Walker.

The Smiths are thankful for the blessing of life they weregiven. They are also glad that Powell has stayed on schedule indevelopment, and that it appears he will not have any furthercomplications.

“He should be able to play ball and do whatever he wants,” saidAmy of her son’s miraculous recovery.

They are also thankful for the concern shown by their family,friends and doctors during Powell’s battle for life.

“We could not have asked for anything more,” said Amy.”Everybody was wonderful.”