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WRITTEN BY JESSICA HOWARD
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN DIXON

Nathan Stickles of Spring Hill, Tenn. is a redheaded, blue-eyed blur of movement. The energetic 7-year-old likes gymnastics, Little League Baseball, riding his bicycle and climbing trees. But there was one thing that threatened Nathan's full slate of activities and even his life - a serious congenital heart problem called atrial septal defect (ASD).

When a heart murmur was discovered at his 6-month checkup, his parents learned of the nearly inch-in-diameter hole between the heart's two upper chambers causing the oxygen-rich blood to leak from the heart's left side to the heart's right side. The defect, found in about four out of 100,000 people, was causing the blood to be pumped back to the lungs despite having already been refreshed with oxygen.

Nathan was followed by cardiologists in Arkansas until the family moved here in August 2004. Soon after he was seen at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Thomas Doyle, M.D., recommended a percutaneous ASD closure, in which an Amplatzer septal occluder is used to seal the hole. The device is a wire mesh patch that is inserted by catheter into a vein in a leg and directed to the upper chambers of the heart where it is put in place and expands to seal the hole. The procedure has been used more than 200 times at Vanderbilt since 1998. Nathan's mom, Angie, who is expecting her third child, another boy, said Nathan was out of the hospital the next day by lunchtime and his month-long recovery has been uneventful. continued..

 
   
 

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