Where to begin is always a challenge when recounting the incredible story of my son Aiden’s journey from a hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) diagnosis to a healthy, energetic, chunky 9-month-old. I suppose the best place to start is at the beginning.
I was 20-weeks pregnant, attending what I thought to be a routine doctor’s appointment. Like all expectant mothers, I hoped to have an easy pregnancy full of laughter, weird cravings and endless nights of picking out baby names. Assuming that the appointment would be nothing short of predictable, I assured my husband, Jeremy, that there was no need to take off work to accompany me. However, this one appointment delivered news that changed my normal pregnancy into one with more uncertainty for the future than for the name of my unborn child.
Sitting in the examination room was a blur. All I could hear were the words “kidneys” and “hypoplastic”. When I finally got a hold of my husband, he immediately assumed that the ultrasound machine must not have been “good enough,” that machines “make mistakes” and get “bad reads.” While I felt heartbroken, my baby appeared to have an actual broken heart, one that even the best parenting can’t mend.
Our doctor sent us to Houston Perinatal Associates, whose big, fancy machines confirmed what our regular OB/GYN had already told us. Our son had HLHS. We were then referred to Texas Children’s Hospital where we met fetal cardiologist, Dr. Nancy Ayres. After what seemed like a never-ending ultrasound, Dr. Ayres told us that our son’s case was severe enough to consider a fetal heart procedure that had never been performed at Texas Children’s Hospital before. She reassured us that they had been preparing to do this procedure for a while now by building an amazing facility and training with doctors in Boston who were well practiced in the procedure. We knew that without this procedure there was a good chance that our baby may not survive, so we decided to give our son the best chance at life and proceed with the in-utero procedure.
After that, it all happened so fast. The procedure had to be done by the 28th week of pregnancy; I was already at 22 weeks. Just one day shy of 28 weeks, I successfully underwent the fetal procedure. We had survived both emotionally and physically, and were becoming more and more excited to meet our miracle child.
I returned to Houston at 37 weeks with plans to deliver at the Pavilion for Women in the coming weeks. We scheduled a C-section a day or two before I would reach 39 weeks of pregnancy but Aiden had his own plan. The nurse checked my blood pressure when I arrived to the hospital, exclaiming that it was through the roof. Before I knew it, I was on the phone with my husband telling him to get to Houston as fast as he could because our son was on his way!
Our beautiful baby boy was born on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 4:46 PM, weighing six pounds and six ounces and 19.68 inches long. We were amazed at how incredibly blessed we had been. Although Aiden had to undergo three surgeries after he was born, the fetal procedure seemed to do exactly what it needed to. He made such great progress that he was able to move out of Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) after three short months. A week after, the impossible happened when we were finally able to take Aiden home for the very first time!
It’s been a long journey, but I am happy to say that for the first time in Aiden’s life, he has spent more time outside of the hospital than inside. We owe it all to the wonderful care of our doctors and nurses. I would never lie and say that it has been easy, but I wouldn’t change a thing because at the end of it all, we have our precious son. Aiden is living proof that joy can come from even the most difficult hardships, and I feel blessed everyday to be his mom.