After harrowing turns with a potentially fatal heart ailment, little Stellan had an emergency operation - and it's a "home run."
Thanksgiving came early for Stellan McKinney and his family.
The ailment, called supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, caused Stellan's heart to race. As a last-ditch effort last April, McKinney and Stellan were airlifted to Children's Hospital Boston for a surgical ablation, or burning, to destroy an additional pathway to Stellan's heart that causes SVT. Because he was so tiny, the ablation only partially succeeded. Doctors said another ablation would be likely, ideally when Stellan was 4.
That wasn't to be.
In late October, Stellan felt cold and clammy when McKinney put him to bed. She turned on his monitor. His heart was racing at about 225 beats per minute. Stellan celebrated his first birthday in the intensive care unit at Minneapolis Children's Hospital, eating cake decorated with the words, "Miracle Boy." Doctors knew, though, that the miracle would be a successful ablation, even though the chances at his age were about 20 percent.
On Thursday, Nov. 5, McKinney and Stellan returned to Boston; the ablation was scheduled for the following Tuesday. McKinney's husband, Israel, stayed home to care for their other three children before joining his wife and baby boy for the procedure. On Monday, Stellan flat-lined. Doctors brought him back and had no choice but to go in immediately.
After several attempts, cardiologist Mark Alexander cranked up the wattage and ablated Stellan's extra pathway for one solid minute. It was, McKinney said, "a home run."
"The pathway was dead on arrival," she blogged. "Stellan, who nearly died on us this morning, is SVT-free tonight. To God be the glory, great things He hath done!"
Stellan will continue to be monitored by his Minneapolis doctors. But the odds are "very, very high, 90-plus percent," Dr. Alexander said, "that [the SVT] is gone."
Stellan "was a very difficult-to-manage baby," he said. "A number of times, he made it tough on everybody looking after him to make sure he was safe." Alexander praised the Minneapolis team, led by Dr. David Burton. "They did all the hard work," Alexander said, "and we came in and took the glory."
Stellan only takes baby aspirin now. His appetite and energy are returning.
The McKinneys, who live in Becker, Minn., will celebrate Thanksgiving with relatives in Atlanta. But the holiday truly began two weeks ago.
"He's doing great," McKinney said. "We're adjusting to the fact that he's normal. It's crazy. It's like a new beginning."
Gail Rosenblum • 612-673-7350