Editor’s note: For 2-year-old Thaddeous McKenzie, the Baltimore Running Festival was just a fun day when he got to run fast with a bunch of other kids. For his mother, Jennifer McAnany, and others who formed “Team Thaddeous,” it meant a lot more.
By Jennifer McAnany
(as told to Amy Katz)
I felt my son grip my hand tightly as he wiggled in anticipation of the race. He was restless, but only because he was excited to run in the Kids Fun Run at the Baltimore Running Festival. I looked down at him, beaming with pride. I could think only about how truly blessed I am to have a healthy child who is living life to the fullest and being a normal 2-year-old.
When I was pregnant with my son Thaddeous, I wanted the best care possible for my baby. Because of complications, I was already considered a high-risk pregnancy, so I went to see Dr. Geoffrey Rosenthal at University of Maryland Medical Center. At 20 weeks, doctors found a heart defect and diagnosed Thaddeous with Tetralogy of Fallot. In this heart defect, it is difficult for the heart to pump oxygen properly, causing the child’s lips, tongue, and fingers to turn blue from lack of oxygen. The most common treatment for TOF is usually open heart surgery, and this surgery usually must occur within the first few months of life. It was scary for me because we wouldn’t even know how bad the defect was until he was born.
The day Thaddeous was born was very nerve-racking for me. He was born at UMMC – where they were prepared to perform open heart surgery on him immediately, if he needed it. As soon as he was born, the nurses came and assessed him. I was thrilled when I learned little Thaddeous was well enough to be able to go home from the hospital with me when I was released two days later. He was monitored every couple weeks and seemed to be doing okay.
About 11 weeks later, when we went in for a genetics appointment with Dr. Julie Kaplan at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center (part of the UM Medical System), she noticed that Thaddeous was looking a little blue, demonstrating one of his heart-defect symptoms. They had to immediately transport us from Upper Chesapeake hospital to the UM Medical Center in downtown Baltimore. It was a horrible weekend because his oxygen levels would drop every so often and he wasn’t scheduled to have open heart surgery until Monday morning. This is when we started calling him our little Superman because he pulled through his surgery and came out of it as our little hero.
Thaddeous McKenzie recovering after heart surgery at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.
The full-heart repair was a success and Thaddeous recovered fairly quickly. He was doing great. So when I heard about the Children’s Heart Program Running Team in the Baltimore Running Festival on Oct. 12, not only did I sign up to run – I signed up our little Superman. He even had his own bib number. And then several family members and friends signed up. As “Team Thaddeous,” we raised money for the program to be able to help other young patients and families.
Ready, Set, GO! The buzzer went off to signal the start.
Thaddeous ran as fast as he could, trying his hardest to keep up with the other kids and pulling me along with him. He was having a blast in his Superman shirt with his cape blowing in the wind, and I felt so glad he is still on the mend.
He will still have to have yearly check-ups for the rest of his life, but he is living life like a normal 2-year-old. He has his hiccups at times but what 2-year-old doesn’t? He walks, he plays, he kicks the ball and does everything he wants to do. The sky is the limit for him now.
As we crossed the finish line, still hand-in-hand, I once again realized how thankful I was. He wouldn’t be able to be here running this race beside me for the Children’s Heart Program if it wasn’t for all of his doctors, nurses, and everyone who helped him get where he is today. I did the race for Thaddeous and to give back to the program that had helped us. It was like everything came full circle, and I can’t thank everyone at the University of Maryland Medical System enough.
Go to the Team Thaddeous page to see more photos of Thaddeous or to make a donation to sponsor his team’s fundraising effort.
Team Thaddeous after running to raise money for the Children’s Heart Program and, below, with Dr. Rosenthal (third from left).