By TERESA HAMMOND
To the outside world nine-year-old Tatum Younan is no different than the average girl. She enjoys slumber parties, playing with her brothers, spending time with her mom and dancing to music.
This Saturday, Sept. 24 however, Tatum will pull on a shirt that’s unique to her peer group as well as her family. A shirt bearing the word ‘Survivor,’ as she participates in the American Heart Association 2016 Stanislaus Heart Walk hosted at Modesto Junior College.
At three days old it was discovered that the now-fourth grader had Pulmonary Stenosis. Earlier this year, just six days prior to turning nine, she had her second heart surgery. The first was at the age of three.
The most recent surgery was a result of the need for a pacemaker as a result of the youngster also suffering from reentry supraventricular tachycardia. Prior to the pacemaker procedure being performed at Stanford, her condition was controlled by medication.
“It was like a hamster,” LeeAnn Mason-Younan said of her daughter’s erratic heartbeat prior to surgery. LeeAnn shared Tatum first complained of her heartbeat bothering her at the age of three.
“She was laying on the couch and said her heart was ‘beeping,” she said, noting the visual upon raising her child’s shirt was not what one would normally expect.
“I drove her straight to Oak Valley, because I didn’t want to wait on an ambulance,” her mom shared.
According to LeeAnn the medication and first surgery seemed to be the answer for her daughter until third grade. Maintaining an average/healthy heart rate for the child became both uncommon and difficult, so a pacemaker was recommended to help her condition.
Since her surgery in early March, life has had significant changes for Tatum, including being challenged by anxiety, post-traumatic stress and anger.
The mother of three said her middle child is now being taught at home.
“We’re not sure how long. A teacher comes here eight to nine hours a week and teaches her,” said LeeAnn.
While the addition of the pacemaker has restored the student’s resting heart rate to ‘normal,’ she did experience a setback in the way of basics. Spelling certain words is now a challenge and learning how to tie her shoes again was necessary.
“She’s my life,” LeeAnn said. “Ever since she had her pacemaker put in … she sat down one day and said, ‘Mommy, I don’t feel my heart beating anymore.’ That hit me. She’d spent her whole life feeling her heart beat.”
Tatum used to cheer, now she can’t due to the placement and fragility of the pacemaker which is placed in her chest. According to her mother the pacemaker was placed behind a muscle, but due to size it is visible in her chest.
Limitations and current challenges, however, have not gotten in the way of Tatum’s hopes and dreams. She shared of the things she enjoys most, it’s attending her Hip Hop Class at Pointe of Dance each week. A passion she’s taken such a liking to, she now hopes to be a dancer when she grows up.
“So far she has a lot more energy,” mom said post-surgery and into recovery.
“I can do hip hop again and I can keep up with it,” Tatum said of her life now versus a year ago. “I like it. It’s fast and it’s fun.”
Tatum’s mom shared the coming walk this Saturday and her child in a ‘Survivor’ shirt was one which brought the past nine years into perspective.
“It never really clicked in me that she had this serious of a problem,” the mom said as she recalled the past years’ experiences. “I’m super proud of her.”
Community members are encouraged by the family to join Team Tatum or make a donation to her team by visiting www.stanislausheartwalk.kintera.org.