2020 Was About Being Brave for This CHD Family

When Betsy was 20 weeks pregnant with her daughter, she and husband Ryan went in for a routine ultrasound, expecting nothing out of the ordinary. But when the room became quiet, they knew something didn’t feel right.

They were told their child had Transitional Atrioventricular Canal Defect, which meant her heart was not forming correctly. Within 24 hours, they were meeting with some of the best fetal and pediatric cardiologists in the world at Sibley Heart Center Cardiology.

“We’ll never forget the shock and fear that we felt hearing that news,” Ryan said. “Thankfully, Children’s is in our backyard, and everybody, in every moment from then until today, has provided us with the highest level of comfort. There was a blessing in finding out before she arrived so we could have a plan in place.”

Betsy and Ryan anticipated Samantha’s heart repair would occur at the beginning of 2020, but then COVID-19 hit. Thankfully, she continued to do well, and they were able to schedule her surgery for June 1. The silver lining, Ryan says, was that she hadn’t been to daycare since March, and she was in perfect health for the big day. The surgery was successful.

It was a different time to be in the hospital, but we felt very welcomed and comforted,” Ryan said. “We felt we were in great hands at every turn, from the person at the security desk all the way to our surgeon, who literally had our kid’s heart in his hands. Everyone is there for a special purpose at a time that, for you, is the scariest moment of your life. And while these are huge, scary, monumental events to us, it’s just another day at work for them.”

Samantha’s rapport with her pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Robert Campbell, is something special to observe.

“Since her surgery, Sam is talking more, and she says, ‘I go see Dr. C.’ He’s in her mind often,” Ryan said. “He has a way of making you feel like you’re his only patient. He was also really good about entertaining any question I had and validating us as we went through this.”

Betsy said she was surprised to learn the number of families she was connected to whose children also had CHD. She was reassured by the dozens of positive stories she heard when they shared Samantha’s.

“We typically don’t put much out on social media, but when we did a special post for heart month, I was surprised by the number of people I knew who had heart defects in their families and are thriving,” Betsy said. “It affects so many people.”

Betsy and Ryan have become passionate about the issue of heart disease and say they will continue to work to raise awareness. They know this is not an experience they will see as “check, we’re done with that,” but one that will shape their lives forever.

In the meantime, the family says holidays will look very different this year. They welcomed a new baby, Sophie, just before Thanksgiving and protecting everyone’s health will be their primary consideration.

“We’re just grateful,” Ryan said. “We knew going into this year that it would be a big milestone and marker for our whole family. And 2020 threw every curveball possible, not just at us, but at the whole world. We’ll be grateful to get to 2021 and get her to a space where she can thrive. The blessing is she’ll never remember 2020, but we’ll have a little girl who is healthy and strong. She often talks about being brave, and we love that. This is part of her story forever, and we want her to embrace it.”

For more information about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.