Erica Thayer   |   February 3, 2020

Tricuspid Atresia — Jackson’s Story


Positives and Negatives

A year and a half. It really doesn’t seem like much time. However, for Jamie Dawson, it felt like forever. She and her husband, Layne, had been trying to get pregnant. Nothing was working. “It wasn’t happening and I had all but given up hope,” Jamie remembered. Just two weeks after giving up trying, they got a positive pregnancy test. “I have never been so happy in all my life than I was the night that test came back positive.”

A short time later, she felt anything but happy. At 19 weeks pregnant, she was told that her baby boy would be born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD). Specifically, Tricuspid Atresia, HRHS, ASD, and VSD. He would need multiple open heart surgeries, cardiac procedures, and continued care throughout his life. After that appointment she went back home, crawled in bed, and cried for days. “I blamed myself and felt as though it was all my fault. I apologized to my husband everyday,” Jamie said. 

Same Place, Different Side

Despite her original doubts of strength, she remained strong. “I was determined and ready to fight with all my heart and soul for the blessing God had given me.” Fast forward to three weeks after her heart warrior son, Jackson, was born. The hospital staff in the catheterization lab were explaining the consent to treat paperwork to her. They were talking about what could happen when Jackson was put on bypass, “the risks were heart attack, stroke, and death.” 

This was not unfamiliar terrain for Jamie. She worked in the cardiac cath lab doing this very job, obtaining consent. Except this time, she was the one getting the explanation. Not consenting for herself, but for her three week old baby boy. “When they were talking to me … I lost it. All I could think was ‘what if this is the last time I get to hold him alive?’ … I could not stop crying uncontrollably.” The next four hours were some of the longest of her life. Her child, the one she had hoped and dreamed for, was in surgery fighting for his life and there was nothing she could do but wait. 

First, Second, Third

Thankfully, Jackson made it out of his first open heart surgery. Then his second. Then his third. He is a Tricuspid Atresia, CHD survivor — and he’s only 5 years old. But, you would never know what Jackson went through just by looking at him. Besides a blue skin tint in the cold or lack of stamina, from the outside he is just like any other 5 year old. He loves superheroes, music, bike riding, fishing with his dad, and singing loud in the car with his mom. But under his shirt, lies a scar. Under that scar, lies a heart that won’t last. This is why CHD research is crucial. 

“CHD research is important to me because there is no cure for Tricuspid Atresia. The three surgeries Jackson has had are only palliative, to give us more time with him. He’s doing great right now and you’d never know he’s sick to look at him but we never know when things will change. When the time comes and Jackson’s health begins to deteriorate, I want there to be true lifesaving options for my warrior,” Jamie said.  

The need for research is now. No one should have to go through what the Dawson Family and countless other families have gone through. Donate to help us cure CHD. Spread awareness to educate others. Do something to aid the CHD community. Be a hero for the millions of heart heros. They need you. We need you. Make an impact today! 

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