Heart Patient Monroe Soars with Style, Confidence

  • Category: Children
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Heart Patient Monroe Soars with Style, Confidence

Monroe Rorke Lopez first came to Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health in 2015 as an infant needing lifesaving heart surgery. Today, he’s a confident 6-year-old who lights up the room with his smile and trendy style.

Immediately following his birth in Altus, Oklahoma, doctors noted a heart murmur, but didn’t seem overly concerned. After going home, his family noticed the beautiful baby boy couldn’t eat without falling asleep and was turning blue.

A scan a short time later showed it was something far more serious and baby Monroe was whisked away to Oklahoma Children’s Hospital.

“They drove him to Oklahoma City in an ambulance,” said Shelby Sexton, Monroe’s mother. “They couldn’t chopper him because of the weather that day. We had to follow in our car – it was the longest drive ever.”

Monroe was facing critical heart issues when he arrived at Children’s. One of the biggest challenges was Pulmonary Atresia – a condition where the valve of the heart that controls blood flow from the heart to isn’t formed.

“We had to create that valve for him and repair other parts,” said Harold Burkhart, M.D., Monroe’s pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon and Chief of the Division of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery. “He was a very sick little baby with a variety of heart issues.”

Monroe was also diagnosed with a Ventricular Septal Defect, or a hole in the wall that separates the two lower chambers of the heart. He also had Patent Ductus Arteriosus, which is an opening between the two major blood vessels out of the heart.

“One is supposed to close in the womb and the other after birth, but Monroe’s didn’t,” Dr. Burkhart explained. “All these problems just left his circulation system nearly completely broken.”

After that, Monroe had a series of surgeries. In addition to his surgery as a newborn to repair his heart, at 2 months old, he was back in the operating room to repair a heart aneurysm. He had another surgery at 1 ½ years old to insert a feeding tube. Another surgery to replace an artery when he outgrew the one he had, and a fourth corrective surgery at 2 years old.

For years, Monroe’s family has been driving more than 140 miles (one way) to get him to Oklahoma Children’s Hospital for his surgeries and checkup after checkup – now, those drives are getting fewer and farther apart for his visits with Dr. Burkhart and pediatric cardiologist Arshid Mir, M.D.

Even though Monroe doesn’t remember much about the actual events he is as curious about what happened to him as a young child, and more specifically, why he has scars on his chest.

“Now he looks in the mirror and asks ‘why are they here’ when he looks at the lines on his chest,” said Sexton. “He wants to know if he can take his shirt off. We tell him of course!” Her goal is to help him be accepting of his scars and his story.

“He loves to wear a suit and tie and sometimes a necklace. He likes to look good – but always wants to be sure to look like a boy,” Shelby laughed. “He’s into Spiderman, knows everything about sharks and just loves reading. He’s has no real restrictions. He’s rough and tough, usually the Energizer bunny and very funny.”

In other words, a mother’s wish for a healthy boy came true. The doctors at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital have gotten pretty good at granting those wishes for little heart patients.

You can learn more about heart and cardiac care services for children and watch stylish Monroe in our Oklahoma Children’s Hospital commercial at www.oklahomachildrens.org/kidssoar.