Final Project: Hypo-plastic Left Heart

The illness I will be discussing is Hypo-plastic left heart syndrome, this is a condition that I am very familiar with simply because my brother was born with this illness. What Hypo-plastic left heart syndrome is that the left ventricle of the heart is severely underdeveloped to the point where no one with this condition could survive without medical intervention. Where I believe that medical anthropologists could help with this condition the most would be through the Biological and Critical approaches. That is because they can find new surgical procedures to better repair the heart and also find where the origin of this syndrome lays in our genetic makeup.

The Biological approach would be important in research of this illness not only in helping developing better procedures to make the process better on the patients. In the video above it gives you a basic idea of the anatomy behind hypo-plastic left ventricle syndrome. To also help identify where the genetic basis for this syndrome is in our genetic markup, whether it is passed on through parents or a rare random mutation that occurs at a certain stage of development in the womb. In essence the biological approach is the best way to describe this condition through genetics where the is some sort of deficiency that causes the left ventricle of the heart not to develop properly. This is very significant because the left ventricle is the larger of the two ventricle that is responsible for pumping blood through the entire body.

With dealing with hypo-plastic left ventricle the ethno medical approach was very relevant in my families experience of surgeries and recovery. Everyone there in the hospital obviously accepted bio medicine like in most western cultures and took what the doctors said as fact with them being from the professional sector of medicine. Just like the clown doctors in NYC they had people go around weekly dressed up for both the children and parents alike. This is important because of the seriousness of the surgeries and condition the fear of mortality is always in the back of your head. They also used a collage of pictures to show success stories of past patients to help give families hope.

Along with the ethno medical side the experiential side of anthropology was a very big part of this process not only for my brother but my family. This was in accepting the sick role, but not necessarily my brother but our family because he was obviously to young to realize what was happening. In his case he was the smallest to ever survive the surgeries as he was also born a month premature. Also he had to be in a sterile environment for over a week because they could not close his chest after heart surgery because of the swelling. With all of this he will always have a different life from most people and that is why his story is more of a quest narrative. Another person with this condition talks about her life with the good and bad parts of living with this syndrome in the video below.

The Critical approach is also important for hypo-plastic left heart syndrome because of ever changing technology the might be possibilities to lessen the surgeries and extend the life expectancy of people with this condition. This is why biomedicine is such a part of the critical approach especially in the west because it is viewed as the enhancement of bodies through medical intervention. This is evidenced by the fact that if my brother had been born 10 years earlier they would have simply sent him home to die because they hadn’t yet developed the Norwood procedure.

The applied part of medical anthropology is seen with hypo-plastic left heart syndrome in the form of globalization. When we where in Mott’s hospital on the campus of U of M there were couple from all over the country as well as several from Europe. This was because the foremost specials for this procedure was at Mott’s children’s hospital and continue to refine this process.

Aside from the Biological side of where you find out all the information you need to know to deal with the process of surgeries and waiting. The ethno medical side was probably the most important aspect of going through everything as a family. The syndrome is something my brother will always have unless he eventually needs a heart transplant which is a possibility. But the compassion the doctors and nurses show to the patients and their families is what made that process bearable. Not only the health professionals but the families themselves comforted each other throughout each other ordeals. Even though it turned out positive for my brother there were several families that were not as lucky and the ethno medical side is even more imperative then!

Course content

Week 2 Lecture 2

Week 3 Lecture 1

Week 3 Clown Doctors

Week 4 Lecture 1

Week 4 Lecture 2

Week 5 Lecture 1

Week 6 Lecture 1

ChildrensHospPhila. “The Structure of a Heart with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) – CHOP.” YouTube. 2011. Accessed August 17, 2016.

Roswicma. “My Top 10 Worst/Best Things about Having HLHS.” YouTube. 2012. Accessed August 17, 2016.

Leave a Reply