From Strangers to Family, Children’s Nurses Support their Littlest Heart Warriors

Kayla says that even in the worst of times, you can have the best days. That’s something she learned on the best and most heart-wrenching day of her life – the day she gave birth to a baby with a CHD.

Kayla and Chris learned during her pregnancy that their son, Dean, would be born with Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (TAPVR), a congenital heart defect (CHD) in which the pulmonary veins bringing blood back from the lungs don’t connect correctly to the left atrium. Dean had the added challenge of obstructed pulmonary veins, which required revision surgery immediately after he came into the world.

After giving birth by C-section, Kayla only had a fleeting look at her baby before he was flown to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center at Egleston Hospital. There was no time for even a picture before little Dean was flown to the hospital for treatment.

Kayla said the team at Children’s rallied around her family immediately. Allison, an employee at Children’s Heart Center, sent pictures of Dean from that first nerve-wracking night and made sure to keep Kayla updated until she could make the trip to Children’s Heart Center to be with him.

“She was our night nurse, and I actually didn’t meet her for a while, but she kept me calm at night,” Kayla said. “I knew Dean was in good hands with her.”

Other Children’s staff members also worked to ensure Chris and Kayla were as comfortable as possible. Windham supported Chris while Kayla was recovering and was there on Dean’s first and last days in the CICU. Kendall from the Fetal Cardiology team helped answer Kayla’s questions and remains an important “go-to” person in their lives to this day.

“We love them. They are family,” Kayla said. “I wouldn’t have been able to cope without these staff members. All three of these ladies went above and beyond and are still in our lives two years later. We adore them so much.”

Kayla and Dean received travel help from the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities, and support from resources like the Just Heart Foundation and Kids at Heart. Because they had no experience with CHD before Dean was born, they appreciated Children’s providing them information and resources as well as guidance for helping their other children process what was happening. Kayla said they have since connected with other parents who have heart warriors, and they are intentional about supporting one another.

Dean is now an opinionated 2-year-old now who loves reading Little Blue Truck books, Bluey and playing with cars. Kayla said she is amazed at how tough and resilient CHD kids are.

“Dean can fall down on the concrete and scrape his knee, and he doesn’t even cry,” Kayla said. “He gets up and keeps going. I’ve never seen a child do that! We always remind ourselves to not take one second for granted.”

For more information about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.

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