In my third trimester, what was supposed to be a routine ultrasound to determine the gender of our baby, turned into a very different appointment that will forever impact our lives. After a brief moment of rejoicing in the news that we were going to have another little girl, the ultra sound technician became very serious and told us that she suspected a potential problem with Sadie's heart. We were immediately sent to a specialist for more tests and to confirm her findings. I was 38, and my pregnancy was considered high risk, and based on the results of the ultrasound the doctors and specialists told us that it was very likely she would have other disabilities and medical issues as well as multiple heart defects that would require surgery for her to live. We were told the cause for her heart defects were a mystery and while treatment is possible, prevention was not and that very little is known about the cause of congenital heart defects.
While additional invasive tests could have helped to create a more complete picture of what was to come for our little girl, we felt the risks were too high. We spent the afternoon in absolute disbelief and shock and buried our heads with worry. In an instant everything had changed. Prior to this we had no experience with congenital heart defects and while we were grateful for an early diagnosis it did not make this news any easier to deal with.
One of the first things we did was carefully research the best doctors and hospitals across the country and we were happy to find out that the Children's Hospital Los Angeles was considered one of the finest medical institutions in the world and that Dr. Vaughn Starnes was considered one of the very best pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons in the world.
Sadie was delivered at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles which is directly across the street from Children's Hospital Los Angles. After being stabilized in the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit she was then transported by ambulance to CHLA. She was admitted into the Cardio Thoracic Intensive Care Unit in order to stabilize her and to see what would happen next.
At just 9 days old Sadie had her first surgery- a temporary corrective procedure due to a hindrance of blood flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery. The procedure known as a Blalock-Taussig Shunt involves the placement of a plastic tube or shunt to increase the pulmonary blood flow. In addition to the shunt they also banded her pulmonary artery to restrict flow as well as opened up the space between her left and right atrium in order to allow better mixing of the red and blue blood. Dr. Starnes managed to do all this in about 25 minutes on a heart the size of the top of your thumb. He is truly a miracle worker.
Miraculously we brought Sadie home 5 days after her surgery. The date was February 12th and with Valentines day only 2 days away, we had a whole new perspective on what this day would now mean to our family.
Over the next few months, Sadie developed just as a new born should, eating, sleeping and messing her diaper. Things that most parents take for granted, but for which we were eternally grateful. She had regular cardiology check-ups and the doctors were all very positive about her development. She was gaining weight much faster than they expected (which was a good thing).