Belle + Brawn Clothing is giving hearts a little more meaning this Valentine’s Day by dedicating their “Hearts for Chandler” dress to Chandler Bilbrey and donating the proceeds to CHD research. Here is his story.
Emily and Dusty Bilbrey went to the 20 week ultrasound for their first baby bubbling with excitement. It’s a BOY! They were thrilled! But a few minutes later Emily was all too aware that something wasn’t quite right. The sonographer’s demeanor completely changed as she quietly finished scanning.
The Bilbreys soon learned that their baby, Chandler, would be born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD). Not only that, but Chandler’s set of heart defects were among the most severe and complex – Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome with a restricted atrial septum. In short, the main pumping ventricle of his heart did not develop and oxygenated blood from his lungs could not be pumped out to his body. In the womb, Emily’s body was supplying him with richly oxygenated blood to continue growing but he would need immediate intervention to survive after birth.
At the time of Chandler’s birth, a whole team of specialists was gathered waiting for his arrival. Born via planned c-section he got one quick kiss from mom and then was quickly rushed into the cath lab for his first heart procedure. Emily and Dusty didn’t see Chandler again until 13 hours later, once he was settled in the ICU. The procedure did not go as planned, Chandler’s little heart was working hard but struggling. The cath lab procedure was not enough, he needed full-blown open-heart surgery at just 2 days old.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Chandler had multiple surgeries and setbacks. He was on a ventilator, covered in the tubes and wires, and even on ECMO life support for a week. Finally, after 6 long weeks, Emily was able to hold Chandler for the very first time. He was still very fragile and on a ventilator but they were able to share sweet snuggles in the rocking chair of his hospital room.
The staff at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital is nationally recognized as a top hospital for CHD treatment. They did everything they could for Chandler, but his lungs and kidneys never fully recovered from the surgeries he so desperately needed after birth to survive. At just 2 days shy of 3 months old Chandler tragically passed away. He was on a ventilator and stayed in the hospital his whole life.
Chandler’s family is forever changed by his short time with them. They are now compassionate advocates for funding more Congenital Heart Disease research. Approximately 1 in every 100 babies are born with CHD in the US. It’s the most common birth defect and most common cause of birth defect-related infant mortality. The Bilbreys would love to see better treatment options and a true cure become available for other children like Chandler.
In honor of Chandler and Heart Month, Belle + Brawn Clothing is donating a portion of the proceeds from every “Hearts for Chandler” Valentine’s Day dress. The dresses will become available on their website on 1/13/22 at 7pm CT. For every dress sold, a donation will be made in Chandler’s name to support much-needed CHD research through Project Heart.
Chandler’s sister Camrie is modeling the “Hearts for Chandler” dress in honor of her big brother.