CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Just three days after he underwent a third open-heart surgery, we're learning the details of Greg Olsen's son T.J.'s operation. His condition is HLHS, which stands for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
"Born with a severely underdeveloped left side of their heart," said Dr. Benjamin Peeler. "So the left-sided structures of the heart aren't going to be big enough to do their job."
Dr. Peeler is the surgeon tasked with the job of saving T.J.'s life. He says 30 years ago, anyone born with HLHS would die within a year. Thanks to three separate operations, that's no longer the case.
"It's not a cure, but it adapts the right side of the heart to do the work of both sides of the heart," Peeler said.
Monday was T.J.'s third and final surgery at Levine Children's Hospital, which lasted around four hours. He's already eating and sitting up with his parents and grandparents in his bed. This operation is called a "fontan," and because it's relatively new, it's hard to predict how T.J.'s life will progress.
"The oldest living patient with a fontan circulation is mid-40s in age," Peeler said. "So there's a lot we don't know."
What we do know is that T.J. is expected to be a normal little boy going to school and participating in light exercise activities, but with this operation, any intense physical activity is off limits.
"There's a limit to how much blood he'll be able to get out of his heart and that will limit his ability to do high endurance exercise," Peeler said.
Dr. Peeler says he expects T.J. to be in the hospital recovering for about two weeks. He says 90 percent of all kids who are born with a heart defect live into adulthood.
Olsen will not play in Thursday's pre-season game.
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