By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, MN - The aroma of comfort foods will fill the Howard Lake Lions Hall Friday, Oct. 17 as the Lions sponsor a benefit hot dish supper for a 13-year-old boy who recently underwent heart surgery.
Tim Mattson of Darwin is the young man who had the surgery, and his grandmother Judy Mattson lives in Howard Lake, along with his great-grandparents Marvin and Eudora Klugow.
Little did Tim, or his parents Tony and Laura, know that a variety of somewhat common medical conditions Tim had experienced for a long time were actually a sign of a congenital heart condition discovered just this past summer.
Tim had a history of nosebleeds, headaches, and cold feet. To stop the nose bleeds, Tim had surgery on the interior of his nose. That’s when Tim’s elevated blood pressure level was discovered. Soon after that, Tim came down with what was thought to be a chest cold.
“At first, the doctor diagnosed it as asthma,” Laura said. But after a week of no improvement, Tim returned to the doctor’s office, and was then told he probably had bacterial bronchitis.
Laura asked the doctor if they could check his blood pressure since he had recently been told it was high.
His blood pressure was very high, and an irregular heart beat was found, as well.
The next day, the doctor called Laura and said she had thought about Tim all night, and recommended he see a cardiologist.
“Within five minutes, the cardiologist knew what was wrong with me,” Tim said.
Tim was told he had coarctation of the aorta, which is a narrowing of the aorta between the upper body artery branches and the branches to the lower body.
This explained the high blood pressure, which led to his nose bleeds and headaches, and it also explained his cold feet since he wasn’t getting much circulation to his lower body.
In fact, “His blood pressure would be sky high when taken on his arm, but they couldn’t even find a pulse in his feet,” Laura said.
The cough was caused from blood backing up into his lungs because his heart was swelling.
Tim’s artery measured 12 mm just above and below the coarctation, but only two mm at the coarctation or narrow spot, Tony explained. To correct the problem, Tim underwent surgery July 3 that involved placing a stint to open the narrow area.
“Halfway through the surgery, the doctor came out and said they may have to come back in a couple of months to finish the procedure,” Tony said. “I didn’t like hearing that, and I thought, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to be in the surgery room,’” Tony explained.
Luckily, the surgery continued with success, and Tim won’t have to return until he’s 17. At that time, an adult size stint will be placed, and Tim isn’t expected to have any further procedures after that.
During the surgery, the doctor found that Tim’s body had grown new vessels to try to compensate for the lack of blood flow.
“I used to play football and was in wrestling, but now I can’t be in any contact sports because they’re afraid I would cause an embolism if I strain too much,” Tim said.
Although, he can still be in sports that can elevate his heart rate such as swimming or track.
“This is the same condition that you see young athletes in high school die from because they don’t check their blood pressure at this age,” Laura said.
The doctors told Tim that if he hadn’t been properly diagnosed, that he would have likely had heart failure or a stoke within the next year.
“I’m very happy and thankful that I had the surgery. People don’t think about checking kids’ blood pressure, but they should check it more often,” Tim said.
The hot dish supper benefit will help Tim’s family pay for the many medical bills incurred from this procedure, and will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17 at the Howard Lake Lions Hall (formerly the old Methodist Church) located at 625 8th Street, which is two block south of Highway 12 on Wright County Road 6.