Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An Olympic Swimmer, Pectus Excavatum, and my Son

Aug 9

During the Rio Olympics one of the fascinating stories we learned about was of Cody Miller. Amazingly he was on the American swim team! What's so amazing about that? He has pectus excavatum. When we watched him swim and his story was told, our ears perked up because my son has pectus excavatum. At the link above you can see Cody's story and how he won the Olympic trials. In layman's terms, pectus excavatum is where the chest caves in, which compresses the lungs to some degree. It is most noticeable at the onset of puberty and is greatly watched by doctors during puberty. During the fast growth spurts of puberty, pectus excavatum can reach a point where lung function is so impaired, that surgery is needed. Our doctor explained it by saying it was a simple fix of inserting a steel rod to pop out the chest. So...they kept an eye on my son.

Ancient Egypt History Presentation

We watched my son's become a bit more cavernous over the years, but it never reached a degree that concerned the doctors enough to warrant surgery. The determining factor was in how my son felt. Was his breathing impaired? He says it never was. Except for possibly perhaps one time. So we saw a specialist. He wasn't too concerned, but noticed lots of symptoms that looked like Marfan's Syndrome, so we were sent to the echocardio room where everything looked good. We saw another specialist for Marfan's, ran lots of tests, and things are looking good. But I digress.

Back to Cody Miller. He did not have surgery either. His doctor said to swim more. The doctor's theory was that by developing the pectus muscles while swimming would spread out the chest so that lung capacity could increase. My husband and I looked at each other and said, "Good to know!"

Interestingly when I first pointed out pectus excavatum to the doctor, or when the doctor informed me of what I already knew, my son was about 10 and taking swim lessons. I think he was in classes 1, 2, 3, and possibly 4. He became quite a fish and his muscles really grew in his chest and neck.  But that was about the time we first heard about Marfans. Well, no. Come to think of it, I first heard about it when I was pregnant with my son and my daughter was being seen by a developmental pediatrician and the doctor asked me if I  had Marfan's. Hmmm, well no, now that I think more about it, I absolutely heard about it the first time when I had first graduated from college and started having dizzy spells. Did I have Marfan's? Um, what is that????? A few months later I had head surgery but that's a whole other matter. But by the time my son was 10 we learned so much about Marfan's and the complications to the heart, we didn't push the swimming after that. We didn't know until he was about 17 that he had the all clear.

About the pectus my mom and I both knew he had it when he was about 5. A family friend had  already had pectus excavatum. They used to be our neighbors in San Antonio, then moved to England. They flew back to San Antonio to have the surgery for their son and stayed at my parents' house, so we learned all about pectus excavatum then.      

So....this Olympic story was truly near and dear to our hearts, in more ways than one! Oh, and by the way, Cody won the bronze medal! Congratulations, Cody Miller!        

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