For my son, Todd Claeys, 18, of Rochester, 2011 has started off right. He’s back to playing floor hockey with the Rochester Raiders. For Todd —as well as for our family— this is a New Year’s blessing. The reason: he has two severe congenital heart conditions, as well as Down syndrome.
He’s competing in the sport he loves because of a newly approved medical device, not to mention a doses of inspiration from his family. I believe he’s living proof how medical technology can level the playing field for athletes with disabilities.
About 40 percent of children born with Down syndrome have heart problems, but most are not as severe as Todd’s. He has tetralogy of Fallot and atrioventricular canal defect, which required a complex valve replacement.
When Todd was just 10 months old he underwent his first heart surgery. By age 7, he had undergone his second, in which surgeons replaced his pulmonary valve. Both procedures required opening his chest, resulting in great discomfort and long recoveries.
During a November 2009 appointment with Todd’s cardiologist, we were told he would likely need another surgery. Todd, however, was in the midst of his hockey season and insisted the surgery happen post-season. The cardiologist consented. When we returned to Todd’s cardiologist, we learned of a game-changing, cutting-edge device for patients with congenital heart disease.
This device, called the Melody® Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve, was first introduced to the U.S. market in January, 2010. Developed by Medtronic, the Melody valve is an innovative medical therapy—and the first transcatheter valve available in the world—used to mend the impaired pulmonary heart valve caused by the condition tetralogy of Fallot.
This past July, Todd underwent the catheter-based procedure at the Mayo Clinic. During the procedure, a congenital interventional cardiologist inserted a catheter into Todd’s leg and implanted the new valve without opening his chest. The approach is significantly less invasive than traditional open-heart procedures and allows for a faster recovery.
Within 13 days of the procedure, Todd was ready to live like a teenager again. He was back to himself and full of energy, attending adaptive floor hockey camp and managing his varsity high school football team. On Jan. 7th, his floor hockey season with the local Rochester Raiders officially started.
He has a passion for sports, and we knew that the real test of this device would be his performance when he returned to the rink. I can recall his first goal—the crowd was cheering like crazy. It has been incredible to watch him chase his ambitions, and really we’re all just trying to keep up with him. Without his new, life-changing medical device, however, many of these feats would not be possible.
As a nurse at the Mayo Clinic, I witness the value of innovative medical technology every day. The benefits of this medical technology continue to shape Todd’s opportunities in the New Year, allowing our family to live healthier, more productive, and independent lives. Six months following the original procedure, hockey season is in full swing and Todd is back in the game.