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Cardiac surgical interventions for children with trisomy 18 and trisomy 13 remain controversial, despite growing evidence that definitive cardiac repair prolongs survival. Understanding quality of life for survivors and their families therefore becomes crucial. Study objective was to generate a descriptive summary of parental perspectives on quality of life, family impact, functional status, and hopes for children with trisomy 18 and trisomy 13 who have undergone heart surgery.
A concurrent mixed method approach utilising PedsQL™ 4.0 Generic Core Parent Report for Toddlers or the PedsQL™ Infant Scale, PedsQL™ 2.0 Family Impact Module, Functional Status Scale, quality of life visual analogue scale, and narrative responses for 10 children whose families travelled out of state to access cardiac surgery denied to them in their home state due to genetic diagnoses.
Parents rated their child’s quality of life as 80/100, and their own quality of life as 78/100 using validated scales. Functional status was rated 11 by parents and 11.6 by providers (correlation 0.89). On quality of life visual analogue scale, all parents rated their child’s quality of life as “high” with mean response 92.7/100. Parental hopes were informed by realistic perspective on prognosis while striving to ensure their children had access to reaching their full potential. Qualitative analysis revealed a profound sense of the child’s relationality and valued life meaning.
Understanding parental motivations and perceptions on the child’s quality of life has potential to inform care teams in considering cardiac interventions for children with trisomy 18 and trisomy 13.
Understanding perceptions of family caregivers’ roles and responsibilities regarding their child with complex cardiac needs has potential to help care teams better support parents. Paternal experience has been under-explored in pediatric cardiac cohorts.
Ten fathers of children undergoing cardiac surgery completed quantitative surveys on their knowledge needs and preferred format of communication. In face-to-face recorded interviews, they responded to open-ended questions about the definition of being a good father to a child with a complex cardiac condition, perceived paternal responsibilities, personal growth as a parent to a child with a complex heart condition, support needs, and recommendations to medical staff for paternal inclusion. Semantic content analysis was utilised. The study reports strictly followed COnsolidated criteria for REporting Qualitative research guidelines.
The fathers reported high preference for knowledge about the child’s heart condition, communication about the treatment plan, and desire for inclusion in the care of their child. Paternal role was defined thematically as: providing a supportive presence, being there, offering bonded insight, serving as strong provider, and acting as an informed advocate. The fathers revealed that their responsibilities sometimes conflicted as they strove to serve as an emotional and economic stabiliser for their family, while also wanting to be foundationally present for their child perioperatively.
This study provides insight into paternal experience and strategies for paternal inclusion. This summary of the self-defined experience of the fathers of pediatric cardiac patients offers constructive and specific advice for medical teams.