As Hurricane Maria bore down on Puerto Rico with 150 mph winds on Sept. 20, 2017, Arlene Torres was preparing to give birth to a baby boy who was not predicted to live. Just 18 weeks into her pregnancy, Arlene received the devastating news that her son had several serious heart defects. She chose to continue the pregnancy and now her due date was near, but a Category 4 storm was leaving a trail of destruction not seen in Puerto Rico for 100 years. When it was over, the entire island was without power and the hospital where Arlene was scheduled to give birth was destroyed.
So, on Sept. 25, Arlene was transferred to Atlanta, where Jesus Fernando came into the world four days later. Jesus was born with an extremely complex congenital heart disease consisting of a large hole in the heart that extended from the upper chambers to the lower chambers and one ventricle instead of two — but he was born alive.
“His arrival in our lives was to make us believe that the miracles of God are possible,” Arlene said. “We are so happy to have him in our lives.”
Jesus Fernando had two heart surgeries at Sibley Heart Center, one at one month old and the second at four months. Arlene worried about what her son’s daily life would be like after two heart surgeries at such a young age.
“But by our faith in God, we were able to take the news and fight for our son to have great health care at birth,” Arlene said. “That is what he received at Sibley – the best, first-class health care from an excellent team. Because of their excellent care, he is able to have a happy life and live every day full of energy and health.”
Now 18 months old and back home in Puerto Rico, Jesus Fernando is doing well. Doctors say he will need another surgery at the age of 3, but his prognosis for a healthy, happy life is very good. His parents continue to keep a close watch over him.
“This journey with Jesus Fernando affects us emotionally since we have a daily concern for his health,” Arlene said. “We are always on the lookout for any symptoms because he doesn’t know how to express where it hurts. But for Jesus Fernando, he has not been affected at all since he is a very active and cheerful child.”
The doctors at Sibley Heart Center hold a special place in this mother’s heart. She says that Sibley’s staff baptized Jesus Fernando “The Miracle of Hurricane Maria,” and she couldn’t agree more.
For more information about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.