Getting to the Heart of Things…

As per usual, Dean came down with a cold during the long weekend (September 1st) It wasn’t anything major, just a nasty cough that had lots of phlegm. After a couple of weeks I took him to the walk-in clinic to get checked.

Normally we would have gone to the family doctor but as I wasn’t able to do too much walking at the time and needing Jason to drive us, but also not having much flexibility in timing since he needed to work, we decided an 8:30a walk-in trip was in order.

The doctor checked him out and decided it was just viral bronchitis and that there wasn’t anything to do but to wait it out.

A week later, still with his bad cough and to the point he was gagging on phlegm at times, and raspy with his breathing, we wanted to clear it with the family doctor that he hadn’t come down with an infection.

Well, that all went fine but in the process of listening to his heart and lungs, she noticed his murmur was sounding a bit off. He had had a murmur found around 3 months old but nothing came of it.


We left her office with a referral to see a cardiologist and get an EKG and echocardiogram done. She told us it would be at least 3 months for Surrey Memorial Hospital (our local hospital) or 6 months for Vancouver Children’s Hospital. I asked her if she, as a mother, would worry about this heart murmur, knowing what she knows medically. She is a very blunt woman, which is one of  the many reasons I love having her as a doctor. She told me that she wouldn’t be concerned because a heart murmur is so common. I left her office feeling reassured and not a single worry about “what if”‘s or “could be”‘s.

Fast froward six days, and I got a phone call from SMH asking if I could come in the next day. A three month wait time turned out to be only a week long. Turns out they had a cancellation and were going down the list to fill the spot and as all the other people ahead of us were unable to make it, or didn’t answer their phone, we won the lottery and were given the spot.


And panic started setting in. I was more worried about the procedures than the actual outcome. I was still feeling quite safe in the aspect that if it was something major, we would have caught it by now. However, I was really not looking forward to having to take him to the hospital and have them run these tests on him. I started to worry if I would even be able to hold him down if required. Would I turn into a blundering mess at the first sign of him feeling nervous?


We arrived at the hospital a bit early so that he could run around and burn off some energy and feel a bit more comfortable in this new surrounding. He patiently waited with me on the chairs while we waited for the first person to call our name.

We began with the EKG testing. The lady was fabulous. She convinced him to not only sit on the hospital bed, but to let her lift him onto it, stick stickers on him (which she then clipped wires to) and have him lay down for 2 minutes on there. There were no tears, no whines and he was actually quite excited to be turned into a “robot”. He liked helping pull the stickers from the testing off his arms, legs and chest. When he received his reward stickers after the robot-test, he lifted his shirt and put them on his belly.

"Robot" Dean
“Robot” Dean

We went back out to the waiting room where we met with another person who weighed him and measured him to see how big he was. He loved the scale – it had ramps going up and down from it. He’s big into ramps. It took a few times of getting him to “red light” on the top of the platform and hold still to get a weight as he just wanted to run up the ramp, across the platform and down the ramp. But eventually he paused for 2.3 seconds.

After a brief waiting period, we were greeted by a third lady who took us into the second room and performed an echocardiogram. It’s basically an ultrasound of the heart. He had to lay with his shirt off and slightly rolled to the side during the exam, which took close to 30 minutes. He got to watch Elmo on the computer while she did the scan and took the pictures and measurements she needed to take. There was a few times where Dean started fidgeting but he lay decently still, considering how long of an exam it was! I was definitely surprised at how well it was going! After she got all the needed stats, photos and such, she unplugged the cords from his second round of stickers and pulled all three of them off.

Watching Elmo
Watching Elmo

Dean lost it. The three stickers were quite a bit stickier than the first set (which was 8 stickers) and pulled on his skin while she roughly tugged them off. He was crying, upset and not wanting anything to do with anyone but me after that. In the waiting room, we sat on a chair and I explained to him that we were done and that there were no more stickers that had to be put on him. He seemed to calm down a but bit was hesitant to even look at the fourth lady that called us in for more examination.

This time was mostly just chatting, telling about family histories and his health over the past two years. She was a medical student and did a brief listen to Dean’s heart after the verbal part. Then the cardiologist came in and she gave him her outline of medical history and what she heard and thought.

The cardiologist had a listen and was terrific with Dean. It was an hour after we arrived, Dean had woken up an hour early in the morning and he was cranky, tired and hungry. He was ready for his nap and not interested in anything else. But he managed to wrangle Dean in and finish the testing/examination.


And he gave us the great news : Dean’s heart murmur is “innocent” and nothing to worry about and nothing that needs further follow up appointments or examinations.


Two hours later, Dean was happily eating a Timbit after a quick lunch at Tim Hortons before we headed home for his much needed nap. Dean kept talking about robots and Elmo and stickers on his belly well into the evening. He kept telling me that he wanted to bring him Baby Applesauce (he understands that when Mommy has Baby A, she has to go to the hospital… And well, Mommy was there so where the heck was Baby Applesauce?!)

I was really happy with the experience (as happy as someone who has to take their kid through any kind of procedure like that can be) I’m definitely relieved that there’s no worry about his heart and I’m also feeling quite relieved to know that SMH has a terrific team in the paediatric ward and that if, Heaven forbid, we ever do need to visit there for something major, their awesome group of doctors will be on hand!



Now, if only this darned cough would go away… Ugh.


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