This story begins like so many others: A baby is born with a problem that medical science has not yet figured out how to handle. But instead of the expected tragic ending, our story plays out to a miraculously joyous conclusion.
The patient is Doug Paquette, a 39 year-old man from New Hampshire, who was born with a congenital heart defect. Watched carefully by doctors as an infant and child, Doug grew to be a young man thoroughly engaged with life; a man who looked and acted healthy in every way. But inside, his heart was in serious trouble. His aunt, Gail Delisle told us: “He was in congestive heart failure and was a walking time bomb. At any moment he could have had a massive heart attack that would kill him”. Doctors told Doug he would need immediate heart surgery. But before that could happen, many obstacles had to be overcome. With the help of his aunt, Doug ultimately found the facility, Tufts Medical Center, and the surgical team headed by Dr. Kenneth G. Warner, that could help him. With no medical insurance and being unable to work, the toughest obstacle, financing his surgery and hospital care, still loomed; this is where The Ray Tye Medical Aid Foundation stepped in.
Doug’s story is best told by his heart surgeon who came to know him so well during his evaluation, hazardous surgery and recovery.
A MIRACLE WAITING TO HAPPEN
By Kenneth G. Warner, M.D.
When Doug Paquette was born thirty-nine years ago, he was diagnosed with an unusual congenital heart defect. Normally, the blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the arteries of the heart originate from the aorta, the major blood vessel that supplies oxygen to all the organs in the body. But in Doug’s case one of the major coronary arteries arose from the pulmonary artery that normally supplies blood to the lungs. As a consequence of this abnormal circulatory pattern, deoxygenated, or blue blood, was being delivered to the heart muscle. This lack of oxygen to the heart resulted in congestive heart failure at a very young age. Nowadays, babies diagnosed with this particular congenital heart anomaly undergo urgent open heart surgery to establish flow of pink, oxygenated blood to the heart. This is typically performed during the first six months of life, but when Doug was born the technology and surgical expertise to treat this condition had not yet been developed. Therefore, for many years, he was treated by his pediatricians and his pediatric cardiologists with medications and careful observation.
Due to his personal strength and fortitude and with the support of his devoted family, Doug proved to defy virtually all odds by surviving this life-threatening condition into adulthood. He was involved in athletics and was an accomplished baseball player. He was successfully employed for many years in New Hampshire where he lived surrounded by a loving family. Despite his underlying heart disease, Doug managed to grow in many ways, fully enjoying his life.
However, his fortunes took a turn for the worse last winter. Like so many others, he became a victim of the staggering economy and joined the ranks of the unemployed. Due to his resourcefulness and his many talents, he decided to change careers and work with underprivileged children as a tour guide and counselor. But when a heart murmur was detected on the physical exam for his new job, an extensive medical workup was ordered which confirmed the diagnosis of his severe congenital heart defect. Of particular concern was the finding that his heart muscle had become seriously damaged over the past four decades from the underlying abnormality. The doctors treating Doug felt that his prognosis was grave and that without risky cardiac surgery the chance for his survival was poor.