Jayden Umthum

Shortly after being born at a Waterloo hospital in March 2000, Jayden Umthum’s skin began turning a dusky blue—a dangerous and potentially life-threatening sign.

Jayden, daughter of Mindy and Bron Umthum of Janesville, Iowa, was transferred immediately to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with pulmonary atresia with a ventricular septal defect.

Pulmonary atresia is a congenital heart condition in which the pulmonary valve—the opening in the right side of the heart that controls blood flow from the right ventricle to the lungs—does not form properly. As a result, blood from the right side of the heart cannot go to the lungs to pick up oxygen. A ventricular septal defect refers to a hole in the inner wall (septum) that separates the heart’s left and right chambers and prevents oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood from mixing.

At 2 days old, UI surgeons inserted a shunt to improve Jayden’s pulmonary blood flow. In August 2001, Jayden underwent open heart surgery for a new pulmonary artery, an artificial pulmonary valve, and repair of the ventricular septal defect . In September 2014, Jayden returned to the UI for a Melody valve to replace the existing surgical conduit.

Since March 10, Jayden has been at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital with a heart-related infection known as endocarditis. At one point, Jayden’s temperature soared to 107 degrees; intravenous medications and constant monitoring are helping keep Jayden comfortable and her condition under control.

Down the road, Jayden will likely face another valve replacement and pulmonary conduit procedure. She and her parents knew another surgery was likely. So, for now the 17-year-old remains calm yet resilient.

“She’s a fighter. I cannot say enough about how determined she is,” Mindy says. “When Jayden was young, they told us she probably wouldn’t be able to play sports, but she’s competed in softball, volleyball, and basketball. She’s always been a very active young lady.”

The Umthums remain grateful for the care and expertise available at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

“We cannot say enough about the doctors and nurses and staff—we’ve had just a great experience,” Mindy says. “It’s exciting for them—and for families—to have a new hospital like this.”

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