Though being a little older at diagnosis was a negative, Jessica said his age helped his chances of recovery. When he came out of surgery, his heart was beating on its own. He was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for only eight days versus the anticipated three weeks.
But that wasn’t the end of Eli’s health issues. He didn’t want to eat, a common occurrence with “heart babies,” Jessica said. So Eli needed a feeding tube. They discovered he had a milk-protein intolerance, so he was put on a special formula.
Eventually his feeding tube was surgically implanted so he could be given extra nutrients and medications without a fuss.
“He’s been through physical therapy,occupational therapy and speech therapy,” Jessica said. “He has graduated all of those now, but he may need more later.”
The therapies were needed because Eli didn’t have the cardiac support to perform the skills on his own, she said. Motor skills such as holding up his head, rolling over, crawling and walking were delayed, but as of September he met the basic requirements for his age.
“He had to learn to work with his level of cardiac support to learn these things,” Jessica said. “Basically, he didn’t have the energy to do them until his therapist showed him ways he could l earn how to do it.
“The goal with speech therapy was to get him to eat. Most people assume speech therapy is only for speech problems, but in reality they do much more than that.”
In Eli’s case, it was to determine if he had swallowing problems or just wouldn’t eat due to an oral aversion. They determined Eli did not have any physical issues with eating.
“Oral aversions are common with heart kids because of so many medical procedures and time on the ventilator,” Jessica explained.