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Department of Surgery

Madison's Journey

Madison's Journey by Amy Roberts
In May 2013, my 16 year old daughter, Madison, came home from school and complained of her heart “feeling funny” during the day. She said her heart was beating very rapidly and fluttering in her chest and she was short of breath after climbing two flights of stairs. Well, as Madison’s mother and a long-time heart patient myself, I didn’t take her complaint lightly. At age 23, I was diagnosed with a heart condition called atrial fibrillation and later discovered, as I was undergoing a cardiac ablation in 2008, that my children could potentially inherit the heart defect. Immediately after Madison explaining the heart episode at school, I scheduled an appointment with Madison’s primary care physician who thankfully had the foresight to send us to MUSC Children’s Hospital. Little did I know that would be the beginning of a long journey of life changing events.
Madison Wachowski and Dr. Ryan Butts
Upon arriving at MUSC Pediatric Cardiology, we met Dr. Ryan Butts, with whom Madison instantly bonded. Dr. Butts is very professional, knowledgeable, kid-friendly, thorough, and genuinely concerned about the well-being of his patients. He put Madison through a battery of tests – EKG, echocardiogram, stress test, MRI, etc. And after much ado, my suspicions of atrial fibrillation were confirmed. However, things were much more complicated than we ever could have anticipated.
Madison was also born with a bone deformity call pectus excavatum which means her chest was sunken in the middle. She had been monitored closely every year throughout her lifetime, and we were always led to believe this issue was more cosmetic than medical. Madison knew she looked slightly different than most girls, but she embraced her uniqueness and never let it interfere with her daily routine. Dr. Butts informed us that the MRI revealed that Madison’s breast bone was compressing the top of her heart which was causing poor blood return to the rest of her body. We believe this sudden compression to have occurred as Madison hit a growth spurt. Dr. Butts scheduled Madison for a cardiac ablation to correct the atrial fibrillation but the operation was unsuccessful because Madison’s breast bone was simply in the way. Her heart was actually hitting her breast bone with every heartbeat.
Dr. Butt’s then referred Madison to Dr. Andre Hebra, Chief of Pediatric Surgery at MUSC Children’s Hospital. Dr. Hebra was absolutely amazing with Madison and my family. With his vast level of expertise and experience and passion for his profession, he educated us in an easy to understand way on the severity of Madison’s problem. Dr. Hebra told us that Madison would need to have pectus repair, which would be a risky, complicated yet minimally invasive procedure where a steel rod would we inserted into Madison chest and wired to her rib cage. This would allow the breast bone to be lifted off of Madison’s heart. Dr. Hebra explained to Madison that pectus repair is the most painful orthopedic surgery there is and her case was going to be very challenging.
After several weeks of sleepless nights and many prayers, we scheduled Madison’s pectus repair for November 18, 2013. The surgery went extremely well! I remember Dr. Hebra telling me after it was over, that Madison’s case was even worse than he thought, but the procedure went far better than expected. Madison spent 5 days in the Critical Care Unit where she received top notch care. All of the doctors, nurses, and staff on 7C were very attentive to Madison’s needs and made her as comfortable as possible as she adapted to her newly modified chest. Madison spent the next six weeks at home recovering before she went back to school. Now she has pretty much resumed her normal activities.
Dr. Andre Hebra and Madison Wachowski

I would like to personally thank MUSC Children’s Hospital, Dr. Ryan Butts, and Dr. Andre Hebra for ultimately saving my daughter’s life. Madison’s quality of life has improved tremendously since her pectus repair. I pray that Madison will be used as an example for other pectus patients. Many insurance companies do not want to pay for pectus repair because they deem it a cosmetic procedure. However, if Madison would have had the procedure done as a preteen, she never would have faced life threatening circumstances. I am so grateful that Madison had access to such a wonderful hospital that truly cared about saving my child!


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