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Jeffrey Mylocopos is ten years old and in grade five. Like most other kids his age, he enjoys playing hockey and video games. Recently though, Jeffrey has learned a critical skill that few children his age have: how to listen to his heart - literally. Since last November, Jeffrey has found himself at The Children’s on three separate occasions due to a dangerously high heart rate. Now, his first defence against the problem is his own vigilance.
Jeffrey was born with a rare heart malformation that resulted in a decrease of blood flow to his lungs making him appear blue. This condition was diagnosed at The Children’s by expert pediatric cardiologist Dr. Luc Jutras two months before Jeffrey was even born. Following his birth, Jeffrey was admitted to The Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where he spent the first weeks of his life. While in the NICU, the medical team was able to avoid risky surgery through medication and Jeffrey went home to his family after three weeks. “For the years that followed, Jeffrey was in good health,” recalls his mother, Lindi Ross. “Although physical activity was much more demanding on him than on other kids, it didn’t stop him from participating in, and even excelling at, sports like hockey and karate.”
Last November, on a routine visit to see Dr. Jutras, who has continued to monitor him over the years, Jeffrey displayed something unusual. “He was at rest in the exam room, but his heart rate was around 200 beats per minute and not decreasing,” recounts Dr. Jutras. “Normally this would cause a patient some pain or discomfort, but surprisingly, Jeffrey didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary!” Jeffrey was immediately brought to a treatment room where the cardiologist could safely stabilize his heart rate by administering an intravenous medication. Once his heart rate returned to normal, Jeffrey was admitted to The Children’s for the following four days to undergo tests and to start him on new medications to prevent further occurrences.
“Many memories came back to my husband and I during that stay in the Hospital,” says Lindi, referring not only to Jeffrey’s time in the NICU as an infant, but to his older brother Jeremy, who was born with Down syndrome. Jeremy spent three months at The Children’s as a newborn for major treatments, including an open-heart surgery that was performed by Dr. Christo Tchervenkov. “Although there were heart-wrenching moments during that time, our memories of The Children’s are mainly fond ones,” explains Andre Mylocopos, Jeremy and Jeffrey’s father. “We remember the care and compassion most. They saved our first son’s life and 13 years later, he is still in good health.”
The Children’s cardiology team that treated Jeremy 13 years ago is the same team following Jeffrey today. “You could say Dr. Jutras knows our family pretty well,” says Lindi. “That’s one of the reasons I have complete confidence in him.” Dr. Jutras determined that Jeffrey’s recent episode of rapid heart palpitations was the result of a condition called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), a problem Jeffrey had been at risk of developing due to his previous history. The episodes would continue. The news was difficult for the family but Dr. Jutras reassured them by making it clear that there was no risk of cardiac arrest and that the problem could be resolved through an advanced procedure known as radio frequency ablation.
This March, Jeffrey will undergo the procedure, which involves burning the tissue that is causing the rapid heartbeat, in The Children’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab. In the meantime, Jeffrey’s condition is managed with medication. Jeffrey and his family have learned how to monitor his heart and what steps to take when it begins beating too rapidly.
“I put my hand on my chest and feel my heartbeat. If it gets too high I take medicine and drink cold water,” explains Jeffrey, who has gotten much better at listening to his heart since his check-up back in November. This comes as no surprise to Dr. Jutras, who admires Jeffrey and his family for their resilience. “They overcome adversity together,” he says. “In reality, Jeffrey has always been a boy who follows his heart!”