Imagine. You’re about to take your two day old baby home to start your life as a new parent. Before you leave, a routine wellness check is conducted. Something is wrong. A heart murmur is heard. You’re told not to worry. This is common. Still, a cardiologist will come by just to confirm everything is okay. After a few tests, your new little baby is diagnosed with HLHS. Half a functioning heart. Shocked and confused, you are told that nothing can be done. This was what happened to Maribeth’s parents in 1985.
“My parents were told that there was not anything that could be done to correct this and that I would die in about a week. They were given the option to either take me home or leave me at the hospital,” Maribeth said. They were devastated but simply refused to give up hope. When they got home, the extensive research and phone calls began. Since there was no internet at the time the research was a challenge, but they found out about a surgeon named Dr. Norwood.
He was performing revolutionary procedures in the world of cardiology. He was starting to develop a surgery to help single ventricle heart kids. Being left with the decision of life or death, Maribeth’s parents chose life and Care-Flighted her to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where Dr. Norwood practiced. At nine days old, just seven days after her death-sentence-diagnosis, Maribeth had her life-saving open heart surgery performed by Dr. Norwood himself. 18 months later, she had the second stage of the operation. “At that time, I was around the 16th person to have both open-heart surgeries and around the 11th person to survive them,” Maribeth said.
Both surgeries were a success and she returned home after recovery. Her parents never stifled her, encouraging her to live her life to the fullest. Maribeth is now in her tenth year of teaching. She still sees her cardiologist yearly and is on medication as a continuation of care. She’s been married for four years. She loves to travel, visit with family, and be with friends. Though Maribeth is unable to carry a child, she and her husband are looking into adoption to start a family.
She is living a beautiful and full life. None of which would have been possible without the life-saving surgeries she received as a child. However, they are not a cure for CHD. There is no cure for CHD. Research gave way to procedures like the Norwood, and further research is what will bring about a cure.