The heart is a miraculous machine; one side pumps blood to the lungs to be oxygenated, while the other side pumps the oxygen-rich blood to the body, where it's needed.
That's the way it's supposed to work. But for month-old Samara Powell, a hole in her heart is allowing the unoxygenated blood to mix with the oxygenated. She also has two smaller holes in her heart and a deformed valve known as an Ebstein's anomaly. She needs surgery, but first doctors need to get her tiny body strong enough.
For Samara's parents Sean and April Powell of Unionville, it's been a trying experience, to say the least. They found out after an ultrasound in December that there might be problems. April was referred to a high-risk obstetrics specialist, who diagnosed an abnormal buildup of fluid in Samara's head, a condition known as hydrocephaly. Then, in February, came word of a possible heart defect. April was sent to Vanderbilt for extensive testing.
Labor was induced on April 25, with the goal of having all of the proper specialists ready and waiting to care for Samara from the outset. She went immediately to the neonatal intensive care unit. Her lungs were underdeveloped, and she had to be put on a breathing machine. When the doctors tried to take her off the breathing machine, she had problems, the problem of the unoxygenated blood. She was moved to cardiac intensive care.
Doctors want to close the hole in Samara's chest using a catheter, but because of an infant's anatomy they will still have to go through her chest to do it.
"We're waiting to get her big enough to have that done," said April.
The experience has been a financial drain on the family, not only from medical bills but from the gas of driving back and forth to Vanderbilt Hospital, the only home young Samara has ever known. April, a bookkeeper, has stayed at the hospital, while Sean, a dispatcher with Huskey Truss and Building Supply in Murfreesboro, has continued to work.
Bill Woodruff, pastor of Gateway Church, said the church is raising money to assist with the Powell's expenses. The church can be reached at 684-2794 for more information.
April said the support the family received from friends, family and church has been incredible. The Powells have a 3-year-old and teenagers, and friends and family have leaped in to help.
"We have been absolutely blown away with how many people are praying for this child," said April.