David was born without complications, at least that’s what his parents believed. But one day, almost at the end of the first month, a flu that prevented him from breathing took him to the emergency room of a hospital south of Guayaquil. He had turned purple and the doctors had to intubate him. Ten hours later, he was in the operating room with a prognosis that his parents did not expect: he had a heart problem.
Daniel Zúñiga, a 41-year-old merchant, remembers how hard that moment was. “The doctors told me that my child had a coarctation of the aorta, meaning that the artery is closing and prevents the normal flow of blood,” he explains. Today David has one year seven months.
Tania went through something very similar with Daniel: she also learned about her son’s illness after the flu. Nelson was five years old and has undergone three surgeries. A similar situation happened to Liliana Loor, 25, who attends her daughter in a hospital north of the city. At 22 days, she saw how the skin tone of her little Elizabeth had turned blue. “She underwent catheterization at eight months, a year and a half later she underwent another one and at two years she was operated on open-heartedly. Today she is six years old “.
It is a more common malady than parents believe, as one in every hundred children is born with heart disease (heart defect). “In the country, an average of 300,000 children are born annually, which means that every year about 2,500 or more children with heart disease are added,” explains Dr. Simón Duque, head of the Cardiology and Cardiosurgery Unit at the Roberto Gilbert Hospital. , of the Welfare Board of Guayaquil. Of this group, 75% will need surgery and half of them will have to undergo surgery in the first three months of life. High complexity cases are attended in this health unit, where more than 1,200 surgeries have been performed since 2013.
Dr. Darwin Zhune Villagrán, coordinator of the area of Cardiac Surgery of this center, recognizes the shock that this implies for parents. “When you tell a father that your child has heart disease, he associates the word with death and thinks that your child is condemned and it is not like that. Advantageously, most heart diseases have a solution. There is a small number that does not have it and for them there are palliative surgeries, which help to have a better quality of life for the patient, ” says.
As there are frequent cases, there is a growing waiting list. Until December, in the Roberto Gilbert 150 patients are scheduled for these surgeries (they are performed from one to three a day). The same happens in the children’s hospital Francisco de Ycaza Bustamante, of the Ministry of Health. In the Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery Unit, some 250 interventions have been carried out since 2016. Initially, it was planned to operate only the cases of low complexity, but those that arrived were severe, so they could not wait.
Hernán Montero, cardiovascular surgeon of this health house, explains that in the country there is no need to know more about these ailments, which means that many parents do not seek help. It is estimated that in Ecuador there are no more than 600 patients per year. The rest of the 2,500 who are born with the problem, continue on the waiting list or stay on the road, because their parents do not know that children suffer from this health problem.
In Guayaquil, in the Roberto Gilbert hospital, 90% of the patients are derived from the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security (IESS) or the Ministry. Francisco de Ycaza also performs free surgeries (this type of intervention in the private sector has a cost that goes from $ 10,000 and can reach tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity and the number of surgeries that are needed). These are figures that seek to raise awareness two days before the celebration of World Heart Day.
The first test, in the womb
When it comes to health problems, you have to buy time. Dr. Ricardo Briceño, intensivist doctor, says that pregnant women must undergo a fetal echocardiogram between week 26 and 30. “So we can know if a patient with heart disease comes and direct it to a specialized center to quickly solve the problem of heart disease”
We must also learn to detect alerts, which occur when the baby turns purple, gets tired and sweats when taking the breast. Or it has those same symptoms when it is larger than the minimum exercise. How to prevent? It’s complicated. Heart disease is due to several factors, from genetic to the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and certain medications. (I)