Thursday, July 13, 2006

Donald family heart story submitted by heart mom Victoria Donald.

Our story starts many years ago when my husband and I were told we would never be able to conceive naturally, IVF would be our only chance of having another baby we always wanted.
We knew we could never afford to go that route so we got on with our lives, with our one other daughter, whom we were still blessed to have.
Six years went by, we moved from England to Florida where my husband whom is in the United States Air Force was to be stationed.
Three months after we arrived in Florida he was sent to Iraq. Six weeks after he had left I found out I was 7 weeks pregnant, beating all the odds we had indeed conceived naturally.
Our second daughter was born Friday, 12th November 2004. She was 7lbs 1oz and perfect. Her older sister Jessica, 8 was so happy to have her perfect sister she always had wanted.
Lauren stayed with me that night, I could not sleep, and all I did was look at this perfect baby.
The next morning they took Lauren for a pediatric test. Later, the doctor arrived to tell us they had found a heart murmur, and were running tests. The doctor told us it was quite normal for newborns to have murmurs, and they just wanted to make sure everything was fine.
At 9pm that evening we got a call from the doctor who had been looking after Lauren that day. He said that a test had come back, and he wanted to send Lauren to the NICU (Neo-natal intensive care unit). I remember him saying “Mrs. Donald, I do not think anything is seriously wrong with your baby.”
The next morning we had found out that as they arrived at the doors of the NICU Lauren had stopped breathing, thank heavens they were able to save her. We also found out that morning that our daughter had a very serious hear defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome or HLHS. This is where the left side of the heart -- including the aorta, aortic valve, left ventricle and mitral valve -- is underdeveloped. We were told we had three options:
First: Comfort care – we take our baby home to die
Second: Heart transplant, if they were lucky enough to find a heart in time.
Third: series of three open heart operations.
We took the third option. We flew from Florida to Atlanta Children’s hospital. When we arrived the nurses could not have been nicer, exactly a day and a half after giving birth I was sitting in a hospital knowing my daughter could die. That evening we had Lauren baptized. It was a very emotional day, but more of those were to come.
The next day, November 15th 2005 (which happened to be my birthday) our daughter went in for an 8 hour major open heart surgery called “The Norwood”. This baby, which at 2 and a half days old survived 6 hours on lung and heart bypass and a major surgery. Nothing prepared us for what our baby looked like the first time we saw her. She was swollen, her tiny body covered from head to toe with wires and tubes, machines beeping all around, and three medicine trees full with medicines going into our baby.
Lauren spent the first 5 weeks in hospital with us by her side, we almost lost her three times in those five weeks.
We did not get to hold her the first 2 weeks; it was amazing to finally get to hold her again. Our daughter Jessica came to visit Lauren, when she was 5 days old. She was so frightened the first time she saw her, but soon that fear was gone and Jessica spent the next two days helping the nurses get Lauren back to health. Lauren came home on 9th December 2004, with a feeding tube, a line in her arm that we had to give antibiotics through, due to an infection in her heart, and 19 does of medicine a day. Still, we had the best Christmas anyone could ever have, and we had so much to be thankful for.
On the 25th January 2005, Lauren became quite ill, and it was decided to send her yet again back to Atlanta for her second surgery, ‘The Glenn”. Two days later she was back in surgery, another 6 hours on lung and heart bypass, she was 11 weeks old.
Again, she did wonderfully and was home with us 8 days later.
Since then Lauren has had Physical therapy, Cognitive therapy, Occupational therapy. Her medical notes are far bigger than all our families put together, she has Cardiologist appointments, doctor’s appointments, and many more appointments. From everything this little girl has been through, she is the happiest little girl.
Today, Lauren is 19 months old. Her heart function is wonderful; she has caught up with her development, and is a joy to everyone who meets her. She is very small for age, only 17lbs 6oz, but all good things come in small packages.
I have met many wonderful families with children whom have heart defects, each having a different story, yet also all having such strength for all they go through.
CHD – Congenital heart Defects, has taught me a difference in the way I live today, I try to be a better person, try not to complain to much, and to cherish every moment we have with our love ones, for we never know what is around the corner.
We now are waiting for a third surgery for Lauren called “The Fontan”. We are unsure of when this surgery will be, but we pray she will be home safely with us shortly afterwards.
There have been many wonderful people along our journey, the surgeons, doctors, nurses, and therapist. The doctor that was worried enough to send Lauren to the NICU, even though he “did not think anything was seriously wrong with her…. Thank you, thank you to every parent or patient out there that either has a sick child or is a child with a defect. Thank you for the support and encouragement you have given our family. We love you all.
Mostly, thank you to our oldest daughter, Jessica. For never complaining when we are away, for all the help you give us with your sister, we love you very much.


Anonymous said...

The story that you have just read was written by my very dear friend Vicky.She is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing people i have ever had the honour to call my friend.We spent many fun and crazy days together at high school in the uk and now that Vic lives in the states shes missed very much.Dispite the distance between us and the diverse and busy life that Vic lives she never,ever fails to be upbeat.She is,as far as im concerned,truely an earth angel who has blessed us all with 2 little earth angels.In the eye of a storm shes already seeing the sun coming fast through the clouds.A lesson to us all that life truely is an amazing gift that we must protect and cherish.Thank you for being my friend,I love you Vic.B.xxxx

Anonymous said...

I'm truly astounded (reading the stories of these families and the challenges they go through with their loved ones' medical conditions). I've never gone through anything like this and I'm amazed at how they cope, how it makes them stronger, how things get into perspective going through these unexpected life changing events and how the "seemingly important" things in life become insignificant in light of what's truly important. Thank you for sharing your stories and may God truly continue to bless you and give you the peace and love only He can provide. John, Vicky and Jessica are amazing, amazing people - and what a strong little girl Lauren is.

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