Know the symptoms: Early intervention benefits 4-year-old heart patient
Cooper Bach is an active preschooler who keeps his parents on their toes.
But things were different just a few months ago, before their son’s heart surgery. Cooper, age 4, would tire easily and sometimes complain about walking.
Jamie Bach and her husband, Adam, are the parents of three children — Cooper is the middle child — so they weren’t new to parenting when they realized that their son couldn’t seem to keep up with his friends.
“I can see all the symptoms in retrospect, but I didn’t see them at the time,” Bach said. “When he was 6 months old, we found out he had a heart murmur.”
Cooper saw a specialist, but Bach said she was reassured that it was not a problem. “They said, ‘Oh, not a big deal. Don’t worry about it,’” she said.
But throughout the following years, Cooper would sometimes want to be carried or he would complain about being tired — not too unusual for a toddler, but more often than Bach would have expected.
“We were chalking it up the daily symptoms to him maybe not wanting to push himself,” Bach said.
But at his 4-year-old checkup, Cooper’s pediatrician, T. Dane Pierce, was concerned and referred the family for additional testing. Cooper was diagnosed with Coarctation of the Aorta, a congenital heart defect.
“We feel like the whole miracle and blessing in this is that they even caught it,” Bach said.
On Oct. 3, 2016, Cooper had heart surgery at MUSC in Charleston.
“A week later, we looked up and he was in a tree,” Bach said. “He recovered so quickly.”
Most astonishing to Bach was a conversation she had with her son.
“He told me in the hospital that his legs didn’t hurt anymore,” she said.
Cooper had always experienced pain in his legs, but because it had been a life-long condition, he didn’t know it was unusual.
“That’s just what he learned to live with,” Bach said. “He’s a different kid now. He’s more active. He sleeps better. We’re really thankful that they found it and they could do something about it.”
As part of their gratitude for Cooper’s excellent outcome, the Bachs are supporting the efforts of the American Heart Association’s Upstate Heart Ball, Feb. 18 at the TD Convention Center, to raise awareness about heart disease and to raise funds for research and education programs. Cooper will serve as this year’s Little Heart Honoree.
Had his condition been left untreated, Bach said it would have continued to cause damage to Cooper’s heart.
“Who knows what would have happened?” she said. “So many people could just overlook it. He seemed fine.”