Isaac Pharr looks and plays like a typical 2-year-old child. He enjoys rolling his John Deere tractor on the floor and he laughs when he throws a toy football at his 4-year-old brother, Tristan.
About this time two years ago, there were concerns little Isaac might not live long enough to enjoy the joys of childhood.
Isaac was born with transposition of the great arteries, a congenital heart defect. He also had three holes in his heart.
Within the first few days of his life, Isaac was transported from Tupelo to Nashville for open heart surgery. Two years later, he shows few signs of his traumatic early days. The exception is a faint vertical scar on his chest, which he’s eager to lift his shirt and show.
“Physically, he hasn’t looked back since,” said his father, Jonathan Pharr.
Isaac, who lives with parents Jonathan and Kim Pharr and his brother in Saltillo, was born June 6, 2007, at North Mississippi Medical Center. The Pharrs thought Kim’s pregnancy went well, but found out soon after Isaac’s birth something was wrong.
“The nurse discovered his tongue was a little grayer than what it’s supposed to be,” Jonathan said. “They decided to do the oxygen level on him, and it was low. That’s the first thing that gave us a clue.”
An echocardiogram the next day revealed something wrong with his heart; Isaac would have to be treated by pediatric heart specialists in another city. The Pharrs chose the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Medical Center.
“Before you knew it, they had a jet on the way to pick him up,” Kim said.
While Isaac was being transported by airplane, his parents prepared for the drive from their home at the time in Tupelo to Nashville. Their older son, two weeks shy of his second birthday, had to stay home with relatives.
“Kim just had a baby 24 hours earlier. They gave her a couple of Percocets, and we drive to Nashville,” Jonathan said. “We get there about 11 that night. I don’t see how she made the trip.”
Transposition in the heart happens when the large vessels that take blood from the heart to the lungs or the body are improperly connected. According to the Vanderbilt Medical Center Web site, transposition of the great arteries is the fifth most common heart defect in children and congenital heart disease occurs in slightly less than 1 percent of all live births.
After Isaac’s transposition was diagnosed at Vanderbilt, he underwent open heart surgery at 6 days old to correct the arteries. The holes in his heart – one in the upper chamber and two in the lower chamber – were sealed.
“It was a blessing for us to go to Vanderbilt,” Jonathan said. “Our surgeon (Dr. David Bichell) was the chief resident the first time this surgery was ever performed. We got lucky.”
Support from home
During their in Nashville, the Pharrs felt an outpouring of support from back home – family, friends, doctors and their home church, Gloster Street Church of Christ. And there were people in Nashville who sympathized with the Pharrs, like the unknown woman who handed Kim a $100 bill in a mall checkout line.
“We learned how good people can be,” Jonathan said.
Still, there was uncertainty from others about Isaac’s fate.
“When Isaac was 3 months old, a guy came up and asked us, ‘Is he going to make it’?,” Jonathan said. “You suddenly become the expert on kids’ cardiac issues. You get the crazy questions for sure.”
Weeks after the surgery, Isaac was able to come home. He had to use a feeding tube through his nose because of swallowing problems until the problem was corrected.
Two years after his ordeal, Isaac now plays, gets upset, eats, smiles and laughs like any other 2-year-old child. His mom believes it’s a good time to begin compiling the baby book that had to be put aside after his birth.
“I didn’t have time to think about that stuff,” she said. “I was thinking about his survival.”
Isaac is expected to go through echocardiograms every nine to 12 months and will likely have to see a cardiologist at least once a year. His parents hope that as he grows older, he can live an active life.
“So far, things have checked out great,” Kim said.
Contact Bobby Pepper at (662) 678-1592 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bobby Pepper/Lee County Neighbors