At 39 weeks my labor was induced so our team of medical miracle workers could be standing by for his arrival. He was born on Monday, January 26th, 2015 weighing 8 pounds 9 ounces and was perfectly chubby and pink. His oxygen saturations were better than anticipated – borderline normal even. Without his prenatal diagnosis we may have unknowingly taken a very sick little baby home. Thankfully, we knew ahead of time and medications were immediately started to keep his heart functioning. A fleet of staff attended to him and whisked him away to the NICU a quarter mile away in the children’s hospital.
At just 7 days old Calvin had his first open-heart surgery. Everything went perfectly. After only 4 days in the ICU we were moved to the cardiac floor into a regular patient room and six weeks later we were discharged home. The following weeks were very sweet as we adjusted to life finally at home. However, after about a month Calvin’s oxygen saturations began spontaneously plummeting for short periods of time. We ended up in and out of the hospital multiple times before the doctors finally decided he was too unstable to wait any longer for his next surgery.
At 4 months old we handed over our little baby once more to the surgical team at Vanderbilt. This time, things didn’t go quite as smoothly for Calvin. Tyler and I regularly refer to the hours following Calvin’s second surgery as the scariest night of our lives…
Calvin went back for his second surgery in the early afternoon. By 9pm that night when the volunteer began turning out the lights in the family waiting room we were still waiting. Finally the surgeon came out and told us things had gone well. He said we should be able to see him in about an hour or so. Several hours later they let us into the ICU to see him. His room was a fury of activity. Four nurses were bent over his bed pushing meds, silencing monitors, and hanging bag after bag of blood transfusions. Two doctors stood by murmuring to the nurses and checking his chest tubes. At first, we didn’t realize anything was wrong. Heart surgery is scary and he looked a little scary, but we were prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was what the doctor said next. “You see how this chest tube is draining light red, almost clear fluid? But this second one, it’s draining too much. We’ve called Dr. Bischell back in to re-explore the situation and control the bleeding.” My stomach sunk. This is serious, they are calling his surgeon back in at 1 o’clock in the morning after he’s been in the OR all day. That moment was the only time I felt that I could actually faint upon hearing something.
They ushered us out of the room and Dr. Bischell re-opened Calvin’s chest right there in the ICU as soon as he arrived. Thankfully they were able to get the bleeding under control. His recovery was a little slower after having his chest re-opened and needing so many extra blood products, but he made progress every day. It was during this time that Tyler and I became more aware of the many families going through similar (and often times worse) situations with their children in the hospital. We met parents who anxiously waited and prayed for their children to make any progress towards recovery. Others were living in the hospital with their child waiting on a life-saving heart transplant as their only hope of ever going home. We witnessed parents stand in shock outside their child’s room as the code light flashed above the doorway and the staff rushed in with the crash cart. Sometimes a room down the hall would be suddenly empty and we were left to wonder if the child was taken to surgery or didn’t make it through the night.
Every day we thanked God that Calvin was recovering well, and we began to talk about what could do to help these children in their battle against CHD. We dreamed up fundraising ideas and began looking for an organization to donate to CHD research. We decided the greatest need in the CHD community is to improve upon the life-saving treatments available for our children. Dreaming about funding CHD research in a big way became our favorite discussion to pass time as we sat for hours in Calvin’s hospital room. It was from these discussions between ourselves, family, and even a few of the nurses that Project Heart was born.