All parents want for their children is for them to be healthy and happy. Watching a child go through a health scare is absolutely gut-wrenching. This is just what happened to this Australian family when their 8-year-old daughter’s schoolmates started telling her she looked pregnant. What ensued is something no parent ever hopes their child has to endure.
“You Look Pregnant”
Leah and her husband Victor already had three children when four years later a “surprise” baby came along, Jada. From the beginning, Jada was different from the rest of their children. Their other three kids were super active and athletic. Jada, however, slept a lot and was always tired. The parents thought it was just from the effort of keeping up with her older, bigger siblings. Jada was really small and not very strong.
“Looking back when she started swimming lessons, she’d turn blue and feel the cold really quickly… and right from preschool she also had extreme separation anxiety, she was very clingy.” said mom Leah.Kidsspot.com.au
When Jada was eight years old, her belly started to swell. At first, Leah and Victor didn’t notice it. Jada’s classmates, however, did. Jada came home saying that her classmates said that she looked pregnant. Her parents decided to take her in for an ultrasound to see what was going on.
Taking Jada in for an ultrasound, they didn’t expect that what was going on in her body would be something overly major. Certainly, they did not expect to receive life-changing news. Unfortunately, that’s what they got.
“We took her for an ultrasound and the man who did it… well, his face went white. He referred us back to her doctor who said, all her organs were enlarged, and we were sent to emergency. We were there all weekend.”
The doctors put Jada on diuretics and she quickly lost five kilograms of water. She had a nurse assigned specifically to stay with her because losing that much water could quickly put her into cardiac arrest. Finally, on Monday, the doctors were able to inform them of Jada’s diagnosis. A doctor sat them down and told them that their little girl had something called restrictive cardiomyopathy. Jada needed a heart transplant – quickly.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy is when the heart has changes that make it not quite function properly. They can either cause the heart to fill poorly or squeeze poorly, sometimes both. The heart muscle does not relax properly in between heartbeats when the blood returns from the body. It is extremely rare and can affect the lungs, liver, and other body systems. (2)
There are a variety of reasons why someone can develop this condition. Still, however, doctors don’t know the exact cause. It can occur after a heart transplant or after scarring of the heart. The symptoms are the same as those of heart failure. Usually, they appear slowly over time.
- Breathing problems that occur at night, with activity or when lying flat
- Fatigue and inability to exercise
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Swelling of the feet and ankles
- Uneven or rapid pulse
- Chest pain
- Inability to concentrate
- Low urine output
- Need to urinate at night (in adults)
If you think you may have something wrong with your heart, it is a good idea to go talk to your doctor.
The doctors considered Jada’s case urgent, so she was able to receive a transplant within months of that first appointment. The operation went well, though a couple of small issues such as an infection meant Jada had to stay in the hospital afterward for a bit longer than the typical few weeks.
The next few years meant plenty of blood tests, doctor appointments, and the occasional surgery. Now a teenager, she for the first time had zero rejection from her heart, which the doctors test every year. It has not been easy for Jada, her parents, and her siblings. Today, however, they can say that they have a happy, healthy daughter, sister, and friend.
“I have learnt through this to throw my expectations out the window. Our babies are born, we think they’ll grow up, go to uni, get married, travel the world, now I look at Jada and think I’m just so glad you are alive, that you can go to school without crying, that you can walk into a shop and order a milkshake, you can do everyday things,” said Leah. “Jada is healthy and strong now – we feel so blessed.”
- “‘Kids at school started saying my eight-year-old daughter looked pregnant’.” Kid Spot. Carrol Baker. July 6, 2022.
- “Restrictive cardiomyopathy.” Medline Plus