A friend told my dad, “A lifetime on Coumadin is still a lifetime.” Those wise words help remind me how blessed I am.
Today’s story is a family affair. Mason, together with his parents Chris and Laurel, share how a desire to play football led to two life-saving surgeries in one week, and how their family stuck together throughout.
A Chance Discovery
My heart journey became “real” in January 2017. I was diagnosed with Non-William’s Supravalvular Aortic Stenosis when I was 16 months old. My stenosis was rated moderate and required only an annual trip to my cardiologist. My only limitation was not being allowed to play competitive sports.
My love of football and a desire to be a part of the team led me to undergo cardiac testing in December 2016 to determine if I could play my senior year. The results were not good for my football aspirations, as the tests revealed a serious issue. So in 2017 year, I underwent two open-heart surgeries.
How do you tell your son that he is going to have to have open-heart surgery?
Laurel and I received the call from Mason’s cardiologist just two hours before he came home from school. We were completely shocked and so incredibly scared. With almost no time to process what we had just learned, we broke the news to Mason and then to his sisters. That whole afternoon still seems like a bad dream.
I felt like my whole world was spinning out of control. Mason was almost an adult; I was beginning to allow myself to think that just maybe he would cruise through a long life with little to no intervention necessary. My greatest fear? That one day Mason’s heart would no longer be “okay”. Mason hadn’t had one cardiac-related symptom, but now he needed complex heart surgery to keep him alive. I was a complete mess.
Surgery Day Arrives, Twice
The decisions we had to make searching for doctors and hospitals were overwhelming. A friend whose son had heart surgery at Sibley at Egleston, spoke highly of their experience. We met a surgeon and the staff at Sibley and felt a comfort level we hadn’t had during visits to other top-ranked pediatric heart centers.
Two months later on surgery day, many of our friends and family were with us. People all over were praying. There was a peace that day that is almost unexplainable. We knew that God had placed Mason in the hands of some special people.
The surgical team’s repairs were extensive. The narrowing of the aorta was patched, work was done to both coronaries at the aortic root to give proper blood flow to the heart muscle, and Mason’s leaky aortic valve was repaired.
Then, 12 hours later, Mason’s valve repair failed and he needed another surgery to insert a mechanical valve. We’d known this was a possibility, but took a calculated risk to try to salvage the native valve.
Post-Surgery Promposals and New Plans
I asked my girlfriend to prom from my bed in the Cardiac Stepdown Unit after my first surgery. It was my idea, and a pretty epic promposal, if I do say so myself. I don’t really remember my parents telling me about the second surgery. It seems like I just knew. I remember hating the thought of starting recovery again. I also remember asking the surgical team to stop and pray with me before the second surgery started.
With my mechanical valve, I’ll take Coumadin for the rest of my life. I’m learning to manage my INR and the required lifestyle with the help of my parents and doctors. As a friend told my dad, “A lifetime on Coumadin is still a lifetime.” Those wise words help remind me how blessed I am.
I’ve been interested in pediatric cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery for a few years now. I knew my surgery would cement this desire, or make me run far away from that career path. The time I spent with Dr. Maher and the other physicians at Sibley affirmed my passion. Next fall, I’ll pursue an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences at Auburn on an academic scholarship. My life experiences have led me on a very clear path. I am more determined than ever to devote my life to helping children like me.
Chris and Laurel
Sibley and Egleston find the most amazing people. Every person – doctors, nurses, to facilities and volunteers – was wonderful. We couldn’t imagine going through this elsewhere. We arrived in Atlanta knowing that Mason would walk away with a mended heart, but didn’t expect the change that occurred in our own hearts. Thank you, Sibley, for caring for our son!!!!