Clara came into the world prematurely on Labor Day in 2017. More surprises were in store, however, when she was diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect three days later.
Pediatric cardiologist Tim Watson, MD, went over Clara’s test results with her parents, Brittany and Tyler in the NICU. She was diagnosed with supracardiac TAPVR (total anomalous pulmonary venous return). This heart defect is characterized by abnormal drainage of the veins that carry high oxygen content blood to the heart from the lungs. She would need open heart surgery, and the road to get there would be full of twists and turns.
“My husband and I were shocked, heartbroken, fearful and confused about how or why this was happening to our sweet and innocent baby,” Brittany said. “After a few months of hospitalization, disbelief, the many tears shed, the scary events that we had to endure, she eventually grew big and strong. By her first birthday she wasn’t on any medications, our minds were more at ease as parents and her doctors’ visits became more minimal.”
Brittany believes that Clara, now 4, got her strong will and determination because of her heart warrior journey. Although she was too young to remember, her fighting spirit was on full display the day she came into the world.
Today, Clara is healthy and like any 4-year-old, is focused on playtime and her family. She loves to learn new things, sing Frozen songs, and play with her Barbie dream house. She takes care of her baby dolls as if they are real, and her favorite shows are Doc McStuffins and Peppa Pig.
“She’s our little heart warrior – smart, sassy, beautiful and so incredibly loved,” Brittany said. “She is our constant reminder to be grateful for even the smallest things in life – for each moment and memory – and our inspiration to always keep fighting, even when the days are hard.”
Dr. Watson shared that Clara demonstrated incredible courage before and after surgery. He credits Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center surgical and clinical teams for an excellent surgical outcome.
For other parents facing a CHD diagnosis, Brittany said it’s important to allow your community to help you through it. She valued hearing about the journeys of other families on the Georgia Heart Moms private Facebook group, and she tells parents to try to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. She said she draws inspiration from the resilience of heart kids.
“I thought before I was a mom that I would be the teacher, the giver of advice and lessons, but how wrong I was,” Brittany said. “Clara has taught my husband and me so much about empathy, unconditional love and resilience. It was not an easy journey, and I wouldn’t wish for any child to suffer or endure what these CHD kids must go through, but ultimately our journey made us stronger as a family.”
For more information about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.