4-year-old Kennett, Mo., boy to have third heart surgery in September

Sunday, August 2, 2009
Thomas Liles, right, and cardiologists Mary Wood and Mark Grady pose for a photo during a follow-up appointment at St. Louis Children's Hospital. (Photo provided)

KENNETT, Mo. -- Friends of a local boy have set up an account to assist with medical expenses after two open-heart surgeries before he was 5 months old and a third open-heart surgery scheduled for Sept. 2.

Thomas Liles, son of Angel and William Liles of Kennett, is a 4-year-old hypoplastic left heart syndrome patient who lives in Kennett with his grandmother, Joyce Mathis, and two sisters, Breanna Hausmann and Makayla Liles.

According to Liles' pediatrician, Dr. Andrew Beach, HLHS patients are born without the left ventricle of their hearts. The left ventricle is the part of the heart that is connected to the aorta and pumps blood to the brain and body. A series of three surgeries are required, he said, although many children don't make it to the third.

Beach said children who suffer from HLHS never have a normal level of oxygen in their blood.

"They don't tend to grow as well as other kids," Beach said.

Thomas Liles, 4, of Kennett, Mo., will soon undergo his third open-heart surgery. (Submitted photo)

If the parents choose not to do the surgeries, babies with the syndrome usually die within the first week. With the surgeries, the survival rate is 60 percent at age 5, according to the pediatrician, who added he has seen four cases of HLHS in the area in 10 years.

"Thomas is actually my oldest living patient I have" with the syndrome, Beach said.

According to Mathis, Thomas has HLHS, bronchial asthma, speech problems and a weakened immune system.

"The low immune system causes him to get infections and viruses very easily, resulting in many hospital stays," Mathis said. "He is a fairly normal child except that he tires very easily and his heart works twice as hard as that of other children."

Mathis said Liles is scheduled for dental surgery Aug. 17 in St. Louis.

"He has several teeth that need work and possibly some extractions," Mathis said. "This has to be done to prevent any infections after his next surgery."

Mathis said when Thomas recovers from the September surgery, his family anticipates that he will be able to attend Head Start or have someone brought in to assist him at home.

Mathis said she hopes to be able to return to work after Thomas recovers. She has stayed home with him and his sisters because of his illness.

Mathis said the family gets by through disability assistance on Thomas and assistance from the state.

"During all of the hospital stays, the sickness and the surgeries, we have never reached out for help," Mathis said. "We have always survived on what we had. Usually, we scraped by and, fortunately, our landlords worked with us because of our situation. It was never easy, but we managed."

Mathis said some friends of the family are responsible for setting up the fundraising account.

Donations to assist Thomas' family can be made directly to the Joyce Mathis and Elliot Hausmann Benefit for Thomas Liles Account at Senath State Bank.

For more information, call Mathis at 573-559-5842 or Kelly Warner at 573-344-2929.

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