Tyler Thayer   |   August 5, 2016

Drake’s Story


We never thought we could have kids and after 10 years of trying we had pretty much given up. I ended up getting very sick and had a near death experience. A year later found out I was pregnant, never in a million years were we prepared for what kind of road we had ahead of us. At my second doctor visit during the ultrasound they saw something that looked very abnormal, but with my age (36) I was already considered “high risk”, so they sent me to the high risk specialist in Jackson, TN. The specialist told me I was going to have a boy, I was right at 21 weeks pregnant, and the baby had something called hypoplastic right  heart syndrome. He told us that most kids with this condition either die during birth or shortly after. He immediately got us in at Vanderbilt to see a high risk doctor as well as children’s cardiology. I will never forget that day, they told us all the things to expect. From 22 weeks on I went to our local hospital 2 times a week and vandy once every other week.

By 37 weeks I had the beginning stages of preeclampsia. I was taken to Vanderbilt where they induced my labor. It was all a whirlwind from there on out. When Drake was born they had to work on him for 22 minutes to get him to breathe and respond. Thankfully they had the children’s NICU team right there in the delivery room to wheel him down that long hall right to nicu where they got him settled in and worked with him. I was still in hospital and went back and forth from my room to his bed in the NICU for a whole week. Drake was officially diagnosed with Double Inlet Single Left Ventricle and Mitrial Atresia and 7 days after he was born he had his 1st heart surgery. It took them 8 to 10 hours to do his first surgery then went to the Pcicu. He did well in his recovery and after 2 weeks we were sent to the floor to stay in a regular patient room on the cardiac floor. We were so excited at how well he had done, we remember everyone saying he breezed right through his Norwood.

The day we were getting ready to move to the floor I was standing next to Drake’s crib and he made a sound I will never forget. He coughed really loud like something an adult would do and all of the sudden he started turning blue. My husband yelled for the nurse and all I remember was them  rushing us out of the room while nurses and staff poured in to help. They put us in a holding room down the hall and all they could tell us was that they were still working on him. They did CPR on him for 47 minutes and finally got a small heartbeat. He ended up on ECMO (life support) for almost 6 days. They told us he had a blood clot that went to his lungs then to his heart. They said he had a 50/50 chance of surviving. Needless to say, Drake was and still is a fighter. That was the beginning of our long heart journey, he was on ECMO again few months down road when he had another bad turn. We spent almost all of the 1st year of his life in the Pcicu. We got to come home for his 1st birthday and man was that a celebration! once we got home we had weekly cardiology appointments and checkups at Vanderbilt. We were able to stay home until his second surgery which was 1 year later.

Drake has surprised us all. He is a very affectionate child that does the opposite of what medically he is suppose to do. We have just recently started doing some normal family things because he still has very very low immune system. I can say it’s one of the toughest things but yet most rewarding things to have a CHD child. We don’t know what the future holds for us but right now he is doing well. We try to focus on the daily things and let me just say he is a HANDFULL. He keeps us all on our toes he will be celebrating his 5th birthday on September 14th.

Every year approximately 40,000 babies are born with CHD in the U.S. Project Heart exists to fund continued CHD research so that kids like Drake can live long and healthy lives. Right now there is no cure for CHD, but more research has the power to unlock the mysteries of this disease and make a change. Will you join us in our mission? https://projectheart.org/donate


  1. SHARON KEPHART   |   August 5, 2016

    What an amazing story. God is using this situation to show His works. This is a wonderful testimony of God’s hand in a situation. His plans are full of surprises!

    Sharon Kephart

  2. Teresa G Ekker   |   August 17, 2016

    This sweet boy who I haven’t had the pleasure to meet is my hero! His parents are from our little town in the western part of NC. He is a fighter as his story tells. God not only gave Eric and Jill a gift but gave everyone in Drake’s life a gift too. His smile brightens my day as I ‘m sure it does to anyone who comes in contact with. I pray that he will continue to get to lead a normal life and touch everyone with his beautiful smile.

  3. Susie Anderson   |   August 20, 2016

    I love this little boy and his parents. I’ve known his Mom for many years and have thoroughly enjoyed every post from day 1 that pertain to Drake.

  4. Ann Lathem   |   October 2, 2016

    I have known Jill anbd Eric for awhile now. I am so glad God blessed Drake to them. God knew they both had a heart big enough to love and raise a big boy and
    Drakes story is just beginning.

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