EAST LIVERPOOL - Melissa Crow lives every day with the knowledge that her son, Isaiah, has been given only a 25 percent chance of long-term survival. But considering what 11-year-old Isaiah Crow has survived thus far, the odds must tilt in his favor somewhat.
A benefit dinner held Sunday at Moose Lodge 122 on Third Street in East Liverpool was organized by Melissa's family to help cover some of the costs associated with the numerous medical challenges faced by her son.
Isaiah has patent ductus arteriosus, which is a tube connecting the aorta to the pulmonary artery present in all newborn babies. With PDA, however, the tube has failed to close up following birth. This allows oxygenated blood that has already flowed through the lungs to get caught in the loop of non-oxygenated blood in the pulmonary artery and get sent back to the lungs.
The family and friends of Melissa Crow and her 11-year-old son Isaiah held a benefit dinner on Sunday at the East Liverpool Moose Lodge to help with the medical costs associated with his health difficulties. They included (from left): her nephew Clayton Talbert, holding grand-nephew Brantley Miller, her brother Bud Talbert, sister-in-law Lisa Talbert, father Don Talbert, nephew Justin Talbert, son Isaiah, step-daughter Summer Taylor, mother Deb Talbert, daughter Kaylee Crow, fiance Chuck Taylor and Melissa. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Some of the effects that Isaiah lives with are a smaller body mass combined with a heart greatly enlarged from trying to keep up with the blood loss. The condition is exacerbated by Isaiah's ventricular septal defect, marked by holes in the wall that separates the right and left ventricles, or chambers, of the heart. The result is a further diversion of blood away from where it should be going.
Isaiah has also experienced renewed swelling and enlargement of the aortic valve, which was operated on when he was 14 months old.
Melissa described puzzling early symptoms, such as Isaiah not lying flat as an infant, but curling into the shape of a C. After her questions and concerns about Isaiah were not addressed to her satisfaction, she visited another local doctor, who recommended that she take him to a specialist.
"He was born with what they thought to be a heart murmur," Melissa said. But after visiting pediatric cardiologist Dr. Michael Saalouke in Boardman, the full extent of Isaiah's difficulties were revealed. "They said if we would have been a week later, he would have been dead from congestive heart failure," Melissa said.
In his young life, Isaiah has already undergone speech, physical and occupational therapies, as well as leg braces from the age of three months. In addition to all this, he underwent surgery Jan. 29 due to a severe narrowing of the esophagus. "It was almost completely shut," Melissa said. His tonsils and adenoids were removed on Valentine's Day, though he remains unable to eat solid food.
The most recent surgeries were on Feb. 19, after Isaiah began coughing up large volumes of blood. A similar outbreak one week ago resulted in an emergency lifeflight to Pittsburgh Children's Hospital. "He wouldn't stay awake, he was incoherent," Melissa said. Yet another surgery was performed, during which doctors discovered he had lost nearly six pints of blood. Melissa said doctors had to pump his stomach to remove it all.
That's four surgeries since the end of January. "He's starting to feel a little better, his color is starting to come back," Melissa says with some relief.
The result is a boy who is fortunate to be alive, but also one with severe limitations due to an extremely swollen heart. In fact, Melissa says doctors don't want to perform another open-heart operation until it becomes a lifesaving necessity. It would involve a band wrap around the heart in an attempt to reduce the swelling.
This condition also rules out the athletics that most boys Isaiah's age enjoy. "The more that his heart works, the more that it's working overtime and swelling," Melissa said. Contact sports have been completely ruled out. "The heart doctor said one hit to his chest, and he's gone," she said.
Melissa said Isaiah has taken his limitations well and enjoys playing video games as much as the next kid. While she's glad that Dr. Saalouke is completely honest with them, the odds of survival become a terrible burden sometimes. "It's very difficult not knowing if your son's not going to be alive one day," she said tearfully.
The costs of medicines, medical bills, and gas for the frequent trips to Youngstown, Pittsburgh and local doctors have exacted their toll on the family finances. Melissa also has four other children and deals with her own heart problems, including supraventricular tachycardia for which she has been operated on, and diabetes.
"My family has been wonderful," she said. With their support, she says she has been able to make it through a difficult past and to face an uncertain future.