Happy Heart Month to All the Heart Warriors

An hour after I had given birth, a nurse grabbed my son from my arms.

He was freezing cold, turning blue, and struggling to breathe.  Sometimes I wish I could describe that day as a complete blur, but in reality, I remember almost every detail.  When I was ready, with my husband by my side, the nurse wheeled me to the NICU.  We were suddenly stopped by a doctor that was in complete shock no one had told us what was going on.

“You can’t go in there! Has no one told you? Your baby has a congenital heart defect.  That is a sterile room because he is getting ready to have a procedure to save his life. Doctors will be by your room later to explain everything.”

I had never heard of a congenital heart defect before.

Happy Heart Month to the Heart Warriors

According to the American Heart Association, “A congenital heart defect (CHD) results when the heart, or blood vessels near the heart, don’t develop normally before birth.”

Later that day, I would be told that my baby had Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA).  TGA takes place when the two main arteries of the heart are switched.  The American Heart Association explains it in the simplest way to understand, “This means that the blood flow cycle is stuck in either: body–heart –body (without being routed to the lungs for oxygen) or lungs–heart–lungs (without delivering oxygen to the body).”

My son first had a procedure done to create a hole in his heart so the blood with oxygen and the blood without could mix.  When he was one week old, he had open-heart surgery to reverse his arteries and correct the blood flow.

Most of us know that February is heart month, but until I gave birth to my very own heart warrior, I had no idea that Congenital Heart Defect week takes place February 7-14.

CHDs are the most common birth defects, but many of us know nothing about them!

Not every defect requires open-heart surgery.  Although there are heart defects that may require many surgeries, some can be repaired in the catheterization lab and some just require monitoring.

It is important to note that there is no cure and not everyone makes it. I send so much love to the families of heart warriors that have passed.

As for my kiddo, the doctors repaired his heart, but it will always function a little differently and he will be followed by cardiology for the rest of his life.  However, I’ve learned through my son that kiddos with CHD are extremely resilient. Many people say that unless you saw his scar, you’d have no idea he had such a rough start to his life. He is so strong and refuses to let anything get in his way.

If there is even a bright side in this for me personally, it is that I know my son extremely well.

Besides knowing many medical facts about his little body, I’ve had to be very observant of him.  My trauma response is to constantly monitor him.  With that, now I know SO MUCH about him.  I know all his likes and dislikes, every little facial expression and giggle, early hunger cues, and sleepy cues. I could go on and on.  Sometimes I feel like I can anticipate his next want or need.  It is almost as if I can read his mind.

Our bond is powerful, my heart is full, and his heart is now strong.

Happy heart month to all the heart warriors.

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Alex is a former cook and culinary arts graduate turned stay at home mom to her sweet heart warrior toddler, Wyatt. Alex moved to Cedar Rapids almost 10 years ago after graduating from UNI where she met her husband. While awaiting her husband to return home from his first deployment, she stays busy by having dance parties with Wyatt, taking her two dogs on long walks, experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, reading, and watching reality tv.