Nine-year-old Jordee Pierce recently got a second lease on life.
The Bryson Elementary School student and daughter of James and Jonie Pierce of Bryson suffers from bradycardia, a condition that causes a slow heart rate. Jordee was diagnosed at 7, after several visits to the doctor. An EKG finally exposed her condition.
When a normal heart beats, it sends an electrical pulse to the bottom of the heart, and the bottom knows the beat. With Jordee, wherever the beat is supposed to go through has shorted out. Bradycardia can cause metabolic problems such as hypothermia, damage to the heart and excessive lethargy. Some adults can function normally with the disease, but because Jordee is still growing, her heart can't keep up. Among other symptoms, this causes her to fall asleep at any time.
On June 6, 2013, Jordee underwent surgery at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth, where surgeon Vincent Tam gave her a pacemaker. After the procedure, Jordee, covered in medical tubes, was moved into the recovery room. It was difficult for her family to see her in that state.
“It was stressful,” said Jonie Pierce, Jordee's mother. “She had so many IVs and stuff, one in her leg, neck, both arms... It was real scary because it took a long time (to set up the proper IV tubes). When you (see your child) with tubes coming out of everywhere, it's pretty dramatic for everyone.”
When it was all said and done, the surgery was deemed a success, and Jordee is now considered a stable pacemaker patient by her doctors. A few days later, after recovering from an entire day in the ICU and all of the post-surgery pain, she gave her overhauled ticker a test run.
“We got her up walking Saturday morning, and she would have to try to walk more and more and more, and she did so well on Sunday,” Jonie said.
The bradycardia will last Jordee's entire life, and her heart will never fully be repaired. Every 10 years she will need a new pacemaker or pacemaker battery. After the surgery, James and Jonie had to learn how to clean and redress the incision area, a process they will likely have to repeat.
“All that was left to do was recover,” Jonie said. “She did have a really horrible reaction to the tape over her big incision. It was horrible. So that was a bad part of it. We got the tape off and everything settled. It's amazing how well she's done. She's a tough cookie.”
Read more in Wednesday's Graham Leader.