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Boy, 7, slowly returns to normal life after suffering two heart birth-defects and a stroke

A boy who was born with two congenital hearing defects and suffered a stroke that caused him to lose sensation in half of his body is finally making a recovery and starting a normal life.

Max Weigel, then four, of Rockford, Michigan, about 130 miles west of Detroit, was born with an atrial septal defect (ASD), a hole in the upper chamber of his heart, and left ventricular non-densifying cardiomyopathy, a condition that occurs when the left ventricle fails.

After undergoing surgery to close the hole in his heart, Weigel suffered a stroke, and because of his ailments, treatment options to save him — and prevent him from permanently losing feeling in one of his bodies — were limited.

However, doctors were able to perform life-saving treatments on the young boy, and now, three years later, he is beginning to return to normal life and physically catch up with his peers.

Max Weigel (left), 7, was born with two congenital heart conditions, including ASD, in which a person has a hole between the chambers of their heart

Max Weigel (left), 7, was born with two congenital heart conditions, including ASD, in which a person has a hole between the chambers of their heart

When Weigel was four years old, a local pediatric cardiologist in nearby Grand Rapids, Michigan advised him to have surgery to fix his ASD.

If left untreated, ASD can cause the right side of the heart to grow and weaken, according to the Mayo Clinic

It can also cause the person to later suffer from high blood pressure, such as hypertension in the arteries.

Weigel was referred to University of Michigan Health CS Mott Children’s Hospital, a facility with a specific ICU for pediatric surgery, a decision that likely saved Max’s life, as the doctors there would be better prepared for a crisis.

On April 25, 2019, Mott’s doctors successfully completed the surgery and stitched together the hole in the young child’s heart.

He initially responded well to the surgery and initially even recovered earlier than planned, leaving his parents hopeful that he could return home earlier than expected.

However, two days after the operation, he started acting erratic.

“I asked him what was going on and tried to talk to him, but he didn’t answer. When he started moaning, I knew something was very wrong,” Max’s mother Noel Weigel said in a statement.

Weigel (center) initially responded well to surgery to close his heart, but suffered a stroke days later.  Doctors at the University of Michigan performed an endovascular thrombectomy to remove a blood clot from his brain.  He has since recovered well from the ordeal

Weigel (center) initially responded well to surgery to close his heart, but suffered a stroke days later. Doctors at the University of Michigan performed an endovascular thrombectomy to remove a blood clot from his brain. He has since recovered well from the ordeal

In a moment she described as a “whirlwind,” she ran for help through the hospital to get well.

Doctors and nurses quickly poured into the room. Shortly afterwards, she and her husband Nick Weigel learned that Max had suffered a stroke.

Atrial Septal Defect: The Defect That Gives You a Hole in Your Heart

  • Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a birth defect in which a person is born with a hole between the chambers of their heart
  • Without treatment, it can lead to a weakened heart and lungs, and conditions such as hypertension
  • People with ASD often experience shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, palpitations, and other cardiovascular symptoms
  • Untreated ASD has been linked to heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, and even early death
  • About one in 2,000 babies born in America has some form of ASD

“Max couldn’t talk and couldn’t feel the right side of his body,” said Max’s father.

His vision was also affected. We felt helpless when we saw the fear in his eyes.’

“In Max’s case, imaging revealed that a significant portion of the left side of his brain was at risk of irreversible injury due to a large cerebral vessel being completely blocked by a clot,” explains Dr. Aditya Pandey, a neurosurgeon at Mott.

Doctors decided the only option to save Weigel was an endovascular thrombectomy, a procedure in which a catheter is inserted into an artery, then another device is inserted through the catheter to remove the clot.

“We placed a catheter in an artery in his right leg and navigated to the left carotid artery,” Pandey said.

“We then placed a smaller catheter to reach the clot, allowing the stent retriever to be deployed and the clot to be removed. Within 24 hours he started to improve.’

Had this surgery not been performed, Weigel could have had devastating consequences.

“Without the surgery, he would have been disabled for life,” Pandey said.

“We placed all our trust and confidence in Dr. Pandey when our son was admitted for the procedure,” said Noel Weigel.

Max was partially paralyzed on the right side of his concealed body and partially lost his ability to speak as a result of the stroke.

His family put him in physical, occupational and speech therapy after he recovered, in the hope that he could still have a normal childhood despite his condition.

Max, now seven years old, is learning to talk again and even became a nationally ranked BMX racer for his age group, while living a normal life.

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