I was born in the suburbs of Chicago. My parents moved from Bismark North Dakota to the Chicago area when my mom was seven months pregnant with me. This part of my story always seems miraculous to me. Who does that? Who moves when they are 2 months out from having a baby? Apparently, my parents and it’s fantastic they did as you will soon read.
When I was born, I seemed fine.
Me – new. See that hair? The nurses nicked named me “Woodstock” like the yellow bird from snoopy because my hair stood straight up. I was 8 lbs 14 oz when I was born. Another blessing as my ill health caused me to lose a lot of weight. I’m still “pink” in this photo because I haven’t crashed yet. Everyone is unaware of what is about to happen.
And then something went terribly wrong. Had I been born in North Dakota – this is the end of the story. I die. You never read this. But it isn’t the end because my parent’s trusted God’s best for them and now being near a major US city, I had a chance.
This is a picture of my dad holding me (with my maternal grandparents). If you look close, you can see I don’t quite look the normal “pink”. I’m a little blueish – gray. It’s called being cyanotic. It has to do with having low oxygen saturation.
While my mom was still recovering from my birth, I was put in an ambulance and rushed 40 minutes to downtown Chicago. Within the first 24 hours of life, the doctors discovered I had Pulmonary Atreisa (complete blockage of the pulmonary valve – blood could not get to the lungs to pick up oxygen), so they performed a Waterston Shunt to help reroute blood so that I could pick up oxygen from my lungs.
While this did improve my condition and bought me time, I recently learned that I was only at about 75% oxygen level. Not good enough. At around 30 days, the doctors went back in and basically “poked a hole” where my valve should have been. My mom says I “pinked right up.”
This is a picture of me after my first surgery. I still have some pretty sweet scars from this one, including the “dent” in my leg. (I forget what normal legs look like, from day one I had a dent from the cut down IV.)
I’m looking a lot better in this photo. It’s likely right before I went home or at a later check up.
Both of these surgeries were what’s called “open chest” meaning they did not stop my heart (at least, I think… I’m a little foggy on the details and my old medical records don’t provide much help). I went home at around 40 days old and that was it for a few years. I’m sure there were many doctors appointments and check ups, making sure everything was going ok.
I’ve heard stories about how I was a terrible baby (I cried a lot – screaming really). I’ve been told that my mom got approval, even encouragement, from the doctor to let me cry. It was “good for my heart.” I’m pretty sure I don’t have any screaming baby Debra pictures to share. 😉
Life moved on into toddlerhood.
Come back to read what happened when I was around 2 and a half years old.