Family preps for surgery to combat baby’s rare heart issue
by James Phillips
May 06, 2012 | 3690 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack with his parents, Josh and Crystal Odom. Photo special to the Eagle
Jack with his parents, Josh and Crystal Odom. Photo special to the Eagle
Jack Aaron Odom seems like any other 4-month-old.

The little guy’s parents, Josh and Crystal Odom of Jasper, said he’s a growing and happy baby.

“You’d never know he has an extremely rare heart condition by looking at him,” said Josh Odom, the child’s father.

Josh Odom said his son was born with a congenital heart disease called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). The condition is a rare heart defect where the left ventricle of the heart is severely underdeveloped.

In a healthy human, the left side of the heart receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it out to the rest of the body. HLHS forces the right ventricle to pump blood to both the lungs, as it would normally, and to the rest of the body, a situation which cannot be sustained for long.

“Basically he has three chambers in his heart instead of four,” Josh Odom said. “The condition will put too much stress on his heart as he gets older.”

Jack’s condition wasn’t discovered until his birth at St.Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham on Jan. 11.

“We had a more than perfect pregnancy,” Josh Odom said.“This came up right when he was born.”

Josh Odom said the child had some breathing issues in the minutes after his birth.

“They thought it was just some fluid in his lungs, but nurses noticed a heart murmur and gave him an EKG. That’s when it was found,” he said.

Without medical intervention, HLHS is a fatal condition. The most popular treatment is a staged reconstructive surgery.

Most infants must undergo a surgery immediately after birth, but Jack was healthy enough to skip that initial surgery, Josh Odom said.

Jack’s first surgery will be May 16 when he undergoes the bi-directional Glenn procedure, which will relieve much of the pressure on the infant’s heart by re-routing blood flow.

The final step of the process is the Fontan procedure, which is usually done when a child is 3 to 5 years old.

“It’s a serious procedure and this is a rare condition, so we are nervous,” Josh Odom said. “I think we were more nervous when he was first born and we didn’t know what was wrong. Now we know what his condition is and how doctors are going to take care of it.”

The current treatments for HLHS are relatively new – first being established in the 1980s, which makes life expectancy for the conditiondifficult to determine. Josh Odom said doctors have told him the oldestsurvivors of the condition are in their 30s.

“From what they’ve said, he should be able to live a normal life,” Josh Odom said.

Despite having health insurance, the family is expecting a financial strain after the surgery. Josh Odom said Jack will be hospitalizedfor five or six days and isn’t expected to fully recover for six weeks.

A local restaurant/bar has scheduled a benefit concert for the family for Friday. Harrison’s, which is located adjacent to Brangus Steakhouse on Highway 118 in Jasper, will host the Jefferson Brothers Band, who will be joined by several guest musicians from the area, beginning at 7 p.m.that night. There is a minimum $5 cover for the benefit with the entire covercharge going to the family. Harrison’s owners are also planning several drink specials with a portion of the proceeds also going to benefit Jack.

Local radio station, 88.5 FM ThePlanet, will also be broadcasting live from the benefit concert. Station owner Brett Elmore is helping organize the event and said a silent auction is also planned. He said any local businesses who would like to donate auction items or donate money to the family can contact him at 205-221-2222.

Crystal Odom said any funds would be appreciated but the family covets prayer more than anything.

“We’ve been blessed because so many people are constantly praying for Jack,” she said. “We know he is in God’s hands, and we are asking anyone who will to please pray for him.”

For more information on Jack, visit the “Prayers for Baby Jack” Facebook page. The family has also kept a blog