Operation gives W.Va. infant a fighting chance

January 02, 2001

Operation gives W.Va. infant a fighting chance

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Infant operationMARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Three-month-old Tanner Bishop is alive today because of the miracles of modern medicine.

Tanner had been home about a week after his Sept. 12 delivery at City Hospital when he woke up one night very agitated and wasn't breathing normally, according to his father, Travis Bishop.

Tanner's temperature began dropping and he was "white as a sheet of paper," his father said.

When Travis Bishop related his son's symptoms to City Hospital doctors that night, the doctors told the Bishops to get their son to the hospital immediately.

Tanner's temperature continued dropping to 91 degrees, and, realizing the baby was seriously ill, City Hospital doctors arranged to have him flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital.


Within moments, life for the Bishop family was turned upside down.

Because Tanner's temperature was dropping so fast and because he could not get any oxygen, City Hospital doctors did not believe he would survive the helicopter ride to Fairfax, according to Travis Bishop.

"He was lifeless. Just hanging in the balance, from what we know now," his father said Tuesday.

Doctors packed special hot water bottles around young Tanner and flew him to Fairfax.

He made it.

After he arrived, doctors at Inova Fairfax were quickly able to diagnose the cute, red-haired boy's condition.

He had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare heart disorder that affects about 1 in 5,000 babies born in the U.S., according to Gil Wernovsky, director of cardiac intensive care at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where Tanner is now being treated.

Infants suffering from the syndrome have irregularly developed hearts. Tanner's heart has only two chambers, compared to the normal four, and one is inactive.

At Inova Fairfax, doctors were able to raise Tanner's temperature to 96 degrees through four days of treatment.

Doctors decided to send Tanner to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for a series of three surgeries he would have to undergo to survive his condition, his parents said.

The surgeries are referred to as Norwood I,II and III, named after William Norwood, the doctor who developed the operation.

On Sept. 26, doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia successfully completed the first surgery, which involved inserting a "shunt" into his heart to allow blood to flow to his lungs. Also, the wall that separates the top two chambers of the heart was removed, allowing the aorta to open up and assist the shunt, according to Tanner's mother Ginger Bishop.

The second operation will be performed when Tanner outgrows the shunt, which is expected to be this spring, Ginger Bishop said.

The second and third surgeries will involve rerouting Tanner's blood flow, she said.

The Bishops said they are thankful for every day with Tanner. Bishop Tanner said doctors told him that babies did not have a good chance of surviving hypoplastic left heart syndrome until William Norwood's surgery was perfected about 1990.

Most infants with the complication now have a survival rate of 75 percent, although others, depending on their condition, may have only a 50 percent chance, Wernovsky said Tuesday.

"It's just a very humbling experience," Travis Bishop said.

The Bishops have made personal sacrifices in an attempt to give Tanner everything he needs, and the Martinsburg community is starting to pull together for him, too.

Ginger Bishop has stepped down from her position as manager of a Casual Corner clothing store to a part-time position in the store so she can spend more time at home caring for her son. The Bishops also are selling their new car to save money for a new home.

They currently live in an apartment off Grapevine Road.

On Dec. 22, a Red Cross blood drive at Trinity Episcopal Church in Martinsburg was dedicated to Tanner Bishop. People who gave blood signed a get well card for Tanner and the Red Cross sent him a Red Cross teddy bear.

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