Every game is a victory [UPDATED]Published 3:44am Monday, September 23, 2013 Updated 7:57pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013
At first look, Isaac Iverson seems just as healthy as any other 6-year-old.
His parents, Rich and Karen Iverson, said Isaac loves to play almost every sport, including baseball and basketball. Isaac and his brother, Ian, are just like many brothers, with good playing days and their share of bad days too.
At this point, it would be almost impossible to look at Isaac and know he has had three heart surgeries in his short life.
“You have to really be aware of it and watching for it,” Rich Iverson said. “Nobody would go, ‘Wow, what’s wrong with him?’ They wouldn’t pick it out.”
The Iversons adopted Isaac from Tampa, Fla., in 2007, when he was less than a year old. By the time he was a week old, Isaac had already undergone one heart surgery. Doctors told the Iversons one out of four children do not survive that first procedure.
At eight months old, Isaac had another operation, this time with Rich and Karen Iverson at his side.
But the third surgery was the scariest of all.
Rich Iverson said Isaac’s specific problem, double inlet left ventricle, requires surgery to be done in three stages over the first few years of the child’s life. But the third surgery led to complications and doctors soon discovered a blood clot, so Isaac had to go back in for another surgery. After some tense days, he recovered and was released from the hospital.
Rich Iverson, an associate pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, said these few years were difficult personal times. But as with other people in his congregation faced with challenges, he said he took everything one day at a time and relied on his faith to guide him and his family through.
“There was a lot of praying and waiting and trusting God to take care of things and that even if things don’t work out like we want, it’s going to be OK,” Iverson said.
Doctors have told the Iversons that Isaac is doing very well and there are not any other surgeries on the immediate horizon and even if one has to be done, it would not be an open-heart operation. Karen Iverson said Isaac has his heart examined during a yearly physical and takes a few different daily medications to regulate his blood flow as much as possible.
Double inlet left ventricle is a heart defect that effects the valves and chambers of the heart. Isaac’s blood cannot flow from his heart to his body and lungs in a normal cycle, so doctors had to reroute his blood flow. As a result of the surgeries, Isaac’s heart works at about 60 percent capacity as compared to an average person.
The biggest adjustments Isaac will need to make going forward are in the sports he will be able to play and the ones he will not. Sports like basketball, football and track and field, which require a strong cardiovascular system, will eventually prove too difficult for Isaac.
“It’s not really a danger factor,” Rich Iverson said. “It’s more being able to compete as the levels get harder.”
Isaac’s parents have already begun to tell him about the sports he will have to quit in the coming years. Rich Iverson said Isaac is involved in a basketball camp at Hillcrest Academy, but his son knows he will not be able to play the sport when he gets older.
Instead, the Iversons have tried to move Isaac toward sports he will be able to play in the future, such as baseball and golf. Luckily, Isaac said baseball is his favorite sport, and Rich Iverson said his son already has a strong drive to compete and win. In fact, when Rich Iverson asked his son if he hit a home run in his tee-ball league this year, Isaac was quick to answer.
“I actually did two times,” Isaac said before leaving the room smiling.
Karen Iverson said Isaac has recently started understanding more the realities of his future with sports. She said she has overheard her son telling his friends that he will not be able to play certain games when he gets older.
“You know it’s on his mind that he is going to have limitations,” Karen Iverson said.
But just as they did during the heart procedures, the Iversons are taking things one day at a time. Doctors have not given them a specific age or level at which Isaac will no longer be able to compete, so for now they are simply enjoying watching their son play and have fun.
So far, that’s just like any other 6-year-old.