Huck Inlow | 3 Months


Stats: 

  • Birth – 3035 grams | 6 lbs 11 oz
  • 1 Month – 3950 grams | 8 lbs 11 oz
  • 2 Months – 4420 grams | 9 lbs 11 oz
  • 3 Months – 5620 grams | 12 lbs 6 oz | 62 cm

He is wearing size 2 diapers and mostly 3 month clothes, but a few of those are starting to get snug length wise. He basically just blew right through that size. 

Eating: Huck is currently eating 85-100 mls of breastmilk (roughly about 3 ounces, five or take a few mls) about every 3-4 hours. He was made NPO (nothing by mouth) for a week due to a bloody poopy diaper and that hindered his volume capacity a little but he’s finally doing a lot better.

Sleep: His daytime sleep is still fairly consistent. He’s normally sleeps until about 8 AM, gets a bottle, then meds, and lovenox about 9 AM, takes a shortish nap, gets his weight done, a bath, and lead sticker change, followed by another bottle and meds, then a really long nap from about 12-2/3. He’s usually awake and happy around 3 PM where he will eat/play/cat nap until around 5:30. He’s been eating less and sleeping more at night which the doctors and I are both good with. He’ll normally eat again about 9 PM, sleep a good stretch, eat again around 2-3 AM and sleep another good stretch. 

He still sleeps a lot in the mamaroo which helps his reflux a lot, but will also sleep pretty decent in his bed, in his “nest” that they make for him. 

Milestones:
He rolled belly to back for the first time and has had a few little laughs! He also sits up assisted and can control his head and body really well. 

Medical Milestones: Thankfully, nothing has changed majorly since 2 months. Currently still inpatient on the CVICU heart failure unit while we wait on our Glenn surgery. We will be here until then. He is on milrinone and clonidine + reflux medications + a twice daily diuretic. He is not on any respiratory support at the moment and taking all feeds by mouth. He is finally off tpn and lipids, but still getting therapeutic doses of lovenox for a blood clot in his picc line. The Glenn should be happening in the next few weeks! 

Likes:

  • Being held / rocked
  • The mamaroo
  • His playmat 
  • Anything with lights and sound
  • The bumbo chair 
  • Warm milk
  • Listening to Elvis (it seriously calms him down immediately)

Dislikes:

  • Diaper changes
  • Picc line dressing changes
  • Baths
  • Lovenox shots 
  • People messing with his feet

I can’t believe this little guy is already a quarter of a year old. It seems like it’s both flown by and crawled by. I love getting to know him and spending time with him and seeing him with his daddy and his sister. His next surgery should be very soon and if everything goes as planned, we should be home not too long after that. For the first time, all four of us will be together under one roof. I can’t hardly wait! ❤️



Huck Inlow | Two Months


Stats: Well Huck was born at 3035 grams which converts to 6 lbs 11 oz and was 3950 grams at one month which converts to 8 lbs 11 oz and now we’re sitting at 4420 grams which converts to 9 lbs 11 oz. So he gained two pounds exactly in his first month and one pound exactly in his second month. This is great because he needs to be at least a certain weight before his next surgery. Hoping he gains at least a pound a month! (But since it has taken me a few days to post this, he’s already crossed over 10 lbs!)

He is wearing size 1 diapers and just outgrew the last of his newborn clothes. Which caught me a little off guard and I realized all of the clothes we brought with us are newborn! Had to go buy a few new outfits because they want him wearing clothes now. 

Eating: Huck is currently eating 50-60 ml of regular breastmilk at each feed, typically about every 3 hours. This amount is down a bit from 1 month due to some significant reflux issues. He’s slowly working his way back up though. In the past few days he has taken his old normal of 75-80 a couple of times. 

I’m still exclusively pumping for him, still hating it, still sticking it out. 10 months to go. 😝

Sleep: His daytime sleep has gotten pretty consistent. He’s normally awake for an hour and is happy and playing, then naps for two hours. We’re still working on a night time schedule but last night he was awake and upset on and off from pretty much 6 pm to 11 pm and then he slept from midnight to 4 am, ate a bottle and got a picc line dressing change, then slept again from about 5 to 9 before he was ready to eat again. He sleeps mostly in the mamaroo now which helps his reflux a lot. 

Milestones: We started tummy time! He got the all clear at 6 weeks post op and we started giving it a go. He doesn’t love it but he at least tolerates it for a short bit before he’s over it. He actually prefers to do it more on my chest than on the bed. 

We’ve gotten lots of real smiles! And he’s been cooing at me a lot lately. 



Medical Milestones: Currently still inpatient on the CVICU heart failure unit while we wait on our Glenn surgery. We will be here until then. He is on milrinone and clonidine + reflux medications + a couple of diuretics. He is not on any respiratory support at the moment and taking all feeds by mouth. He is still getting a little background nutrition help from tpn and lipids, and getting therapeutic doses of lovenox for a blood clot in his picc line. The Glenn is tentatively scheduled for 4 months old on September 13 but they will start discussing options at 3 months and 5kg weight. 

Likes:

  • Being held
  • Mamaroo
  • Laying on his back and looking around
  • Anything with lights and sound (I’ve been letting him watch newborn stimulation videos on YouTube and he loves it)
  • Warm milk

Dislikes:

  • Diaper changes
  • Picc line dressing changes
  • Taking his medicine
  • Baths
  • Lovenox shots

We are so in love with this little guy and can’t wait to get him home. He is developing such a cute little personality and I’m so amazed at how well he’s handling being in the hospital. I guess he doesn’t know any different, but with as much stuff is hooked up to him, he really doesn’t seem to mind it much. I spend my days just hanging out with him all day, trying to have as close to a normal experience as I can with him. His doctors tells us all the time that life after the Glenn will be so much better and I’m starting to get anxious for that. Almost there!

Happy two months, sweet baby Huck! Mama, daddy, and Whitlee love you so much!! 

Huck Inlow | One Month

Our sweet little Huck was one month old on June 13 but as usual I’m a bit behind. When comparing to Whitlee’s one month update, this one will be a little different since he’s in the hospital still but I want to document his milestones, nonetheless. 

Stats: Hospitals go by grams, but I’ll translate. Huck was born at 3035 grams which converts to 6 lbs 11 oz and is now up to 3950 grams which converts to 8 lbs 11 oz. So he’s up two whole pounds! This is amazing for a heart baby and the fact that he didn’t get to eat anything until he was several days old, and has been intubated twice more inside his first month and was held on feeds during those times. (Has technically been intubated 4 times now – once for surgery, twice afterwards, one more inside the second month.)

Eating: Huck is currently eating 80 to 100 ml (2.7 to 3.3 oz) of regular breastmilk at each feed, typically about every 3 hours. Sometimes a little sooner, sometimes a little later. His doctors have him listed as “ad lib” which means he can eat whenever he is hungry as opposed to scheduled feeds. 

[Side Note – I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but Huck actually participated in a research study when they first started feeding him. I’ll try to sum it up quickly but basically a company called Prolacta created a human milk based fortifier from pasteurized donor milk and by using that fortifier instead of a milk based or amino acid based formula fortifier, they have been able to reduce the percentage of NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis) in NICUs around the country from 10-12% down to 2%. Fortifiers are used in babies that have low birth weight or have had delayed feeds for some reason, so someone had the idea of using the same fortifier in heart babies as well, since they have delayed feeds or decreased volume due to surgery and/or the overload on their hearts. They’re currently in the study phase of that idea, comparing babies that have the human milk fortifier vs a formula fortifier to see if they tolerate feeds better, have reduced NEC, and have improved growth or development. Here’s a link if you’re interested in reading more.]

Anyway, so how this worked for us is that when they started feeds, we knew Huck would get a fortified version of my breastmilk. By participating in the study, we did not know if he would get the human milk fortifier or the amino acid based formula fortifier that TCH uses as their standard care, it’s all a secret to protect the integrity of the study. We will eventually know which arm of the study he was on when the study concludes in 18 months. When we were supposed to go home, they had to transition him off of whichever secret “study milk” he was on, to be solely on my breastmilk with a known amino acid based formula fortifier. Well he rejected every single bottle that was not labeled “study milk”. I have no proof, but you can probably guess where I’m going with this. So we tried a different amino acid based fortifier and he did a tiny bit better, but it was still a struggle. Then he coded, was intubated again, and when he was extubated, he would barely eat at all. Like we fought to get him to take 20-25 mls. There was talk of putting an ng tube back in, there was suspicion that he was having major reflux issues, maybe tube irritation from intubation, we just weren’t sure. All we knew was he wouldn’t eat and it was so important for him to eat and gain weight. One day, while I was pumping, his intensivist and a cardiology fellow were in the room and we were discussing the feeding issue and they suggested that whatever I just pumped, let’s give him that and see what happens, so just straight breastmilk. We started slow with half a bottle but he downed 30 mls in about 5 minutes, then took another 30 without batting an eye. The next feed, he took about 70. And the next, I think was 77. And he’s ate wonderfully ever since then. They decided as long as he gained weight, he didn’t need the fortifier. So far, so good! 

I’m exclusively pumping for him like I did for Whitlee, but with Whitlee I had an oversupply which led to 3 rounds of mastitis. I purposely decreased my supply this time to hopefully match more of what he would eat at his max point. I loathe pumping but since he apparently wont eat anything else, I have to stick it out. 

Sleep: He sleeps pretty well for the most part. When we were on the inpatient cardiac floor, I could stay every night with him and he would eat and usually go right back to sleep. He normally has one or two periods where he’s awake for about an hour and looks around a lot but he still snoozes quite a bit. 

Milestones: Because of his surgery, tummy time is delayed until 6 weeks but when he lays on my chest, he picks his head up and looks around. 

He loves to look at faces. He has an intense stare and can track really well with his eyes. He’s been tracking since just a few days old. 

He also furrows his eyebrows a lot and is very strong. A lot of his nurses call him “the hulk” instead of Huck. 

We’ve gotten lots of smiles. Still questionable if they’re real smiles or not, but they’re appropriate for when he seems happy, so I’ll take it. 

Medical Milestones: He had his first open heart surgery on May 16 at 3 days old, a double barrel DKS Norwood with BT shunt. Also taking full feeds by mouth and normally isn’t on any respiratory support. (He’s currently intubated while I’m typing this post.)

Likes:

  • Being held
  • Rocking and bouncing
  • Watching the mobile
  • When we talk to him 
  • His pacifier 
  • Holding hands with his nurses when they do his EKG’s
  • Having one arm next to his face
  • Oral care

Dislikes:

  • Diaper changes
  • Waiting on a bottle
  • Getting an echo done
  • When they hold his arm still during blood draws. He doesn’t cry when they stick him, only when they restrain his arm. 
  • Being swaddled with both arms in

I posted his one month picture on my instagram and the Huck’s Heart Facebook and said that I never expected when we decided to have a second baby that this is what our life would look like, that I’d be taking his monthly pictures in a hospital room but here we are. I’ve been asked quite a few times how I’m holding it together and if I’m being honest, everyone sees the public version of me. I’m not perfect and I have fallen apart a few times in private, but then I’m reminded that our baby boy is alive. No matter how scary it gets, or how hard this is, or what curveball we get thrown each day, he’s alive. And we will continue to fight right alongside our little guy for every day that he continues to fight too. ❤️ 

Huck’s Heart | Update

We have decided to start a Facebook page so that more people can keep up with our sweet baby boy. It’s under Huck’s Heart and this is the link – https://m.facebook.com/hucksheart/

We have also decided to do shirts in honor of him. They will run from now until June 25, then they will ship direct to you from Bonfire. https://www.bonfire.com/hucks-heart/


This is was what was posted on our Facebook on Wednesday. The code happened at about 12:13 AM Wednesday morning. 

Last night our brave little guy took a slight turn for the worse. Yesterday, after all of the chaos from the night before, things had started to calm back down – they let him start eating again, and they had taken him off the ventilator down to an oxygen cannula, and then even down to room air by the afternoon. They wanted to monitor him in CVICU overnight before sending us back down to step down unit. This was blessing #1. Nolan and I fed him last night and got him settled for the evening and then we left to go get a little bit of sleep. About 12:30 AM my phone rang and they told me that Huck had started to code but they were able to catch it in time and they intubated him immediately. They said he was very sick, not quite sure what was going on, and that we needed to get there quickly. I think we made it there in less than 5 minutes. We found out later that basically what happened was that he got very mad and instead of his heart rate going up like it should and then coming back down to normal once he was calm, his heart rate just plummeted and his oxygen dropped dangerously low. They were able to avoid chest compressions because they were in the room when it happened and able to intubate so fast. Blessing #2. They were able to do an echo last night and ran extensive labs to check all of his other organ function and check for infection, but everything looked good and his heart and shunt are all functioning correctly. So currently their theory is that this “crash” was possibly related to one of his medicines. Thankfully they have him stable and although he’s still intubated, he’s breathing above it a little. And they have a plan to adjust his meds and get him “well” again. It’s so crazy to think we were supposed to go home yesterday and this crash would have happened our first night at home if they hadn’t caught the previous malfunction and if they hadn’t been in the room when it started to happen, we could have lost him. Blessings #3 and #4. Again, we are so thankful for where we are and the wonderful nurses and doctors at TCH. Please please continue to pray for our little love!

And this was posted Friday morning. 

Huck had a good calm day yesterday and a good calm night for the most part. He’s starting to wake up quite a bit which irritates him when he realizes he’s intubated. The problem they were having when he coded was that his heart rate wouldn’t accelerate properly and then normalize, it would just crash. So they made the decision yesterday to basically start from scratch. They took him off all of his blood pressure and arrhythmia medication and let his body reset. Throughout the night, he had a few times where he would get mad, but his heart rate actually went up and then back to “normal” like it should have, which is a great improvement! He also had his repeat echo this morning and they all agree that function looks great and has improved from the last echo that had landed him back in the CVICU to begin with. The plan for today is to extubate a little later today, after the echo is formally reviewed and they make sure the rest of the team agrees with the plan. They’re watching him super close while they keep him off the meds so they can see where he’ll settle out naturally after they extubate. This picture is from last night when Huck started to wake up more and he just stared at me and his daddy for the longest time. We are so happy to see his sweet face awake again!

Thank you so much to everyone for sharing and commenting on our page and for purchasing tshirts. I would love to be able to comment back to every one of you but I’m doing good just to get an update posted. 😊 Just know that we appreciate every prayer, every well wish, every thought! Huck’s army is the best!!

Huck’s Heart | Two Weeks Post-Op

Huck was two weeks post op on Tuesday evening, so I thought I’d do a comprehensive post on where we’re at, how he’s doing, how we’re all feeling about things. I normally do a postpartum update for myself but it seems my blog has been getting a little more traffic than normal so I’ll spare the talk about my after birth pains and perineal stitches. (Which have subsided and all is well in that department if you’re interested.)

We are so happy to report that everything has been going really well. It’s been such a blessing to have him progress each day. At one week, we were down to one central line left (a neo picc) that he is currently getting one single IV medicine through. He started with two umbilical artery lines plus three additional artery lines – one in his groin area, one in his wrist, and one in his ankle but they’ve taken them all out one by one. And he finally got his chest drainage tube out late last week!

As far as feeding, they started feeding him milk through an NG tube a few days after surgery to make sure his tummy could tolerate it and then they had occupational therapy come work with him on taking a bottle. A lot of heart babies will have feeding issues because there was a delay in feeding, because they developed an oral aversion from intubation, or sometimes because there was temporary damage to the nerves that control swallowing. In Huck’s case, he is doing exceptionally well (doctor’s words) and making beautiful progress (also doctor’s words). By day 3, he was already attempting bottle #5 and was taking about half of it before he exceeded the time limit and they put the rest in his tube. At 14 days post op, he was taking all feeds by mouth and was up to 50 ml. On day 15, he pulled his ng tube halfway out on his own and they let him leave it out. And then on Wednesday this week they gave the green light for him to start trying to breastfeed. The timing was terrible though so he was a little too sleepy after 7 attempts earlier in the day at a blood draw (s e v e n!!), but we tried again the next day and he did really well. Eventually I’d love to just breastfeed him for convenience but we may be alternating fortified breastmilk by bottle with actual breastfeeding. 

Back to it – so late last week the single ventricle team in the CVICU started their checklist of items to approve him to leave and go to what they call their step-down unit. Then on Tuesday, at 2 weeks post op, they gave the all clear. We are officially out of the ICU!

In the step down, Huck has his own room and this is basically treated as his transition before going home. I’m actually staying in the hospital with him and learning all of his care and more about his temperment so that we know more about how he tolerates things and how he normally acts. I have actually done all of his feedings, diapers, comforting, and oral meds by myself for the last three days, aside from earlier today when I had to run and take care of some stuff in preparation for us leaving the hospital. 

As for going “home”, a lot of it will be dependent on him and how well he progresses with weight gain and taking his feeds by bottle in a timely manner. That, plus straightening out a few arrhythmia issues is our current hurdle but that part is kind of trial and error, treat and wait to see if it’s fixed. But I always say “home” because in our case with him having a Norwood surgery, they’re 99.9% sure he will not go home home until after his second surgery, which is scheduled for mid September. They want us to remain close for what they call the “interstage” period, the time between the Norwood and Glenn surgeries. But they have talked more and more about us leaving the hospital the past few days. They also needed to take him off one more of his medicines, which they did two days ago, and then decrease and transition the last IV medicine to oral, which they did yesterday. He also has to continue to gain weight and not have any other hiccups, but they are tentatively planning for us to go home early next week. Fingers crossed!!

A lot of people have asked how we’re doing and I can say for the most part, we’re okay. We are deeply thankful for how well he’s doing and the progress he’s made every day. But I still have days where it’s hard. Every time we change the new routine, I have an adjustment period in my emotions. Nolan went back to work, I cried. We switched to the step down unit, I cried. I’m sure when we finally get to go home, I’ll cry (although that time may be more from relief). I don’t really do any of that in front of people though.. I tend to have my breakdowns in private, thank God. Just don’t ask me if I’m okay lol.. you have about a 50/50 chance of my eyes filling up with tears before I can answer. I sort of just get a little overwhelmed occasionally until we adjust our sails and move forward with whatever new normal we’ve been given. I think one of the hardest parts is navigating how to be the best mom I can be to both kids. Whitlee came down with a mystery virus last week and thankfully she was at my moms house and we weren’t exposed to it. But we had to leave her with my mom and then my in-laws until she was symptom and fever free for a considerable amount of time before she could come back. I hated not being able to snuggle her while she was sick but we have to be extra extra careful right now; a common cold or stomach bug could be life threateningly dangerous for Huck. Thankfully she came back to Houston a couple of days ago and I am so happy to have both kiddos in one place again. 

So now we’re just learning how to take care of our special little boy and learning his habits so we know what’s normal for him and what’s not. We’re getting a lot of education the rest of the week in preparation and we’re just praying he stays on the right path to get to go home soon! 

Huck’s Heart | April Update Part 2 

In honor of making it to 34 weeks, here’s part 2 of this crazy journey so far! 

Read Part 1 here 

I started calling on Monday of the following week, asking for the status of our referral. We were told it could take 5-10 days for approval but if we called in, they could possibly expedite the process. Again, trying to shorten the insanity of what we went through, I made phone call after phone call; one to the OB’s office, then another to our coordinator with Texas Children’s to relay information and ask questions, then another to the insurance company, rinse and repeat, until we finally got approval for all our visits the afternoon before our first appointments with Texas Children’s. Talk about cutting it close! 

On Friday, April 7, I was up at 3 am partially because I couldn’t sleep and partially because we had to leave super early to be in Houston for our 8 am appointment and we weren’t really sure about traffic. It was a whirlwind day, with 3 different appointments, each lasting approximately 2 hours. We were basically starting from scratch and letting them build the information from the last 8 months and Huck’s heart in their own systems and records. 

First we met with the MFM (maternal fetal medicine) ultrasound department. We had a full anatomy scan, which at 33 weeks is kind of strange because he’s so big at this point. They measured all of his body the best they could, let us know he was measuring 5 lbs 4 oz, in the 68th percentile I believe, and confirmed for like the 15th time that he is indeed a boy. 🙂 Oh and that his head and belly were measuring in the 90 something percentile. The words “fat tummy” were used lol. He’s a full pound bigger than Whitlee at this point. 

After that we met with the Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor that we will see until Huck is born and who we thought would be delivering him (I’ll get to that part). She went through my entire medical history, looked at my blood sugars, talked about preeclampsia and symptoms to keep an eye out for, plan for monitoring going forward, the delivery process, what to expect the next 6-7 weeks, gave me an updated tDap vaccine for this pregnancy, and did a cervical check. And then before we signed all of the consent forms for birth and treatment, she asked “do you want another c section, or would you like a vbac?” She was so casual about it, like asking if I wanted water or tea. I asked what she thought and she said that as long as I’m stable with my gestational diabetes and blood pressure, she has absolutely no problem letting me go into labor on my own, when Huck is ready, and letting me do a trial of labor after cesarean; that they do tons of them there. She said it would be easier and faster recovery for me, as well as beneficial for Huck to travel through the birth canal and help squeeze extra fluid from his lungs, especially in this case. She reminded me I’ll need the ability to go see him in the nicu and a c section recovery might hinder the speed in which I’m able to go there, plus having a 2 year old to handle. There were discussions about the risks involved and reasons why we might still end up having a c section but for now, we agreed to keep a close eye on things and proceed towards a vaginal birth. She may or may not be the actual one to deliver him though since it will be spontaneous. 

I’m so nervous and excited for that part, but seriously so at peace that I know she fully supports the idea and that if she moves toward a c section, its because I truly need another c section. She did confirm during my cervical check that I was not dilated yet (good thing since we’re not quite ready yet) but that he was low and she could feel his head, which at this point was excellent because this is what would begin to soften and efface the cervix when it was time. She would prefer I spontaneously go into labor on my own but was open to inducing if we should reach that point. 

The last appointment of the day was for the echo and to see the cardiologist. They did a full echo, lasting about 45 minutes. Nolan and I kept both drifting off during because she was super quiet. She said that while she did the scan, the cardiologist was watching from a different room. I noticed she went back over some of the same areas over and over, very very slowly. I remember wondering if the cardiologist was asking her for second and third looks at some things. Afterwards she left and the cardiologist came in. She said that Huck has a very complicated little heart, but that it is not hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She did a few scans of her own and then had us sit down for a consultation where she explained the complex anatomy of his heart and how we would proceed. 

She explained that he does actually have two ventricles – one on one side that is large and fully functional and another that is very small, sort of like a pocket ventricle. He also has both of the main arteries that are very important for function of the heart. Then she told us that the large ventricle, she believes is the left ventricle, making him have a ventricular inversion. (This explains why our first cardiologist was hesitant to commit to saying right or left.) This also means that the aorta is attached to the left ventricle and the pulmonary artery is attached to the right ventricle, which is called Transposition of the Great Arteries or TGA. He also has Tricuspid Artresia, meaning his tricuspid valve never developed, and he has a ventricular septal defect, a large hole between the two ventricles, making it look like one ventricle. I know this is super confusing and it still is to us too but this picture explains it pretty well. 

This diagram shows a “hypoplastic” right ventricle because the term hypoplastic means “underdeveloped” and he will still be considered (and treated like) a single ventricle baby. But in our case, if she is correct about the complex anatomy of his heart, he has the stronger of the two ventricles. The left is usually considered the “work horse” of the heart, having stronger muscle walls and capable of regulating blood pressure better than the right. 

So what does all of this mean? It means that he will for sure have open heart surgery at least twice in his life. But for now, pending anatomical confirmation at birth, he is clear of the Norwood procedure that happens almost immediately after birth. Reminder, the Norwood is the most complicated and severe of the surgeries and has the highest mortality rates. They said he will go to the NICU somewhat immediately following birth. I say somewhat because as long as he’s stable when he comes out, they will do his initial assessments in the room with us and that he would most likely be with us for around 30ish minutes before leaving for the NICU. Some of this has been a little strange to explain to people because the natural reaction is “we’ll won’t he be in critical condition when he’s born? I mean he’s missing part of his heart… and some of its backwards… and I just don’t understand.” And the best answer I can give that we’ve had to learn over time is that there are some unique features to a baby’s heart while they’re in utero, like some ducts and passage ways, that allow blood to freely move about the heart in a way that is actually “okay” for them at first. It’s not a perfectly functioning heart but it gets the job done. Those things remain open for quite a while giving care providers plenty of time to do whatever needs to be done. It’s all pretty miraculous. 

Where we’re at now is that my care has officially been transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital. I have appointments there once a week, but they’re usually 3-6 appointments crammed into one day since we live 2+ hours away. We won’t know much more about his heart now until he’s born and they’ll able to do a full echo on him to confirm the anatomy of his heart but if everything matches what they believe currently to be true, he may be able to wait a few months before his first surgery, making him much more stable and tolerant of the procedure. We will be temporarily relocating to Houston in a couple of weeks per the recommendation of our team of doctors at TCH and we’ll remain there until Huck decides to make his appearance. We’re not quite sure how long we will be there after he’s born but our prayer is that everything the doctors believe right now holds true and we know they’ll get us home as soon as it’s medically safe for him to do so. We definitely believe he’s in the best place possible now! 

Again, thank you so much to everyone for continued thoughts, prayers, and donations. There have been so many local fundraisers and it makes me cry every time I think about how everyone has helped. We can’t even begin to put into words how thankful we are for everyone’s continued generosity! 

Huck’s Heart | April Update Part 1


Trigger warning .. if words like mortality rates and information regarding insurance diagnosis codes or hospital outcome data scare you, I would tread carefully through my post. It is all mostly good news for us though. 

One thing I can tell you for sure, being pregnant with a baby that has a critical congenital heart defect, you get to experience ALL the emotions. We were initially told it was “probably nothing, but they needed to check to be sure” and then we were told there was definitely something “not right” so we were sent to a maternal fetal medicine specialist to take a better look. You can read a bit more about all of that here.

From there, Huck was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome or HLHS. And then the endless researching commenced. We read things about how 20-30 years ago, this was considered fatal. And that even now, there are still babies that die from it. Some die from not knowing they have a defect so we were so thankful that we knew about Huck’s so early, but some babies die much later from surgical complications or illness that affects them too greatly. The fact that data exists for each hospital on the mortality rates for the first surgery, the Norwood, was scary. Would our baby be one of those numbers? It was terrifying territory not really knowing the life ahead for our baby. 

As mentioned in the first update, we had an appointment with the pediatric cardiologist and he confirmed HLHS and we talked a bit about the plan. Some of you know I lost my job last year when the oil field market plummeted and I was the one that carried insurance on our family. We were forced to obtain insurance through the marketplace just so that our family didn’t go without insurance. We pay a lot of money for very little coverage. Without going on a very emotional political rant and to maybe make a long story a tiny bit shorter, we started finding out that we had some pretty intense insurance network issues. We were sent to a specific maternal fetal medicine and pediatric cardiologist because they were in network but the recommendation from the pediatric cardiologist for standard HLHS care would be at least 3 open heart surgeries, starting the week Huck was born. He said that we would deliver at the hospital he was associated with, UTMB in Galveston, and then Huck would be transferred to Memorial Hermann Children’s in Houston which is affiliated with the UT medical system. UTMB and UT are contracted with each other. I made phone call after phone call ensuring that this was the best option for us and to make sure of who we were/weren’t in network with. I was told we were in network with both UTMB and Memorial Hermann. So we proceeded down that path. 

Now, as a heart mom, you start to learn a lot about hospital rankings and why they are ranked the way that they are. You also see the scariest things like the hospital outcome data that I mentioned. Texas is so blessed to have the #2 ranked hospital in the United States for pediatric cardiology and heart defects, Texas Children’s. It was assumed by pretty much everyone (including us) in the beginning that with such a serious defect, we would be going to Texas Children’s… until we found out we were not in network with them. Again, I made phone call after phone call and even got some help from some family friends that are on the board of directors but it was determined that if we were in network with another children’s hospital that could perform the surgeries, hospital ranking didn’t matter to insurance. We had to go where we were in network, just to simply be able to come out of this not millions in debt. (Yes, millions. Literally.) 

We ended up researching our specific surgeon and found that his credentials were excellent (he came from the #6 ranked hospital in the US for pediatric cardiology) and we loved our current pediatric cardiologist we’d been seeing. We decided it would all be okay, we were placed on this path for a reason, and we felt confident that they would take the best care possible of Huck. We also decided that we didn’t want to do a transport at all so we were going to go ahead and deliver at Memorial Hermann, so that Huck would be where he needed to be. 

And then another bombshell happened. We found out that there was some kind of misunderstanding during all of those calls and were NOT in network with Memorial Hermann either. Come to find out, the insurance plans offered in the marketplace exclude coverage for care at tertiary facilities… like children’s hospitals. We were not in network with a single children’s hospital. Not a single one. I was not prepared for the emotions of having our baby be diagnosed with a critical heart defect but I was damn sure not prepared for the road blocks we were facing. I had no idea what to do from there. I cried ugly ugly tears that day. 

So I started making phone calls again. Phone call after phone call. I was getting pretty good at making phone calls. I made 43 in a single day one day. I finally figured out that in order for Huck to have his necessary care, we would have to request out of network coverage for a tertiary care facility. At this point, we realized if we were about to go down this path, we might as well go for Texas Children’s. So I reached out to all of my previous contacts and got more information and tried to help my doctors office coordinate with my insurance company to get the referral done correctly. Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. Then we found out that our current pediatric cardiologist had not officially made his recommendation for care. He normally does that after the follow up echo, which we were scheduled for the week following all of the insurance chaos. So it was decided that we would see him for our follow up and get his official recommendation for care in order for the insurance referral to be finalized. 

On March 30, we went to our follow up echo, hoping for at least no change. We were praying that they didn’t see any additional defects or any less function in his heart. We were met with good news! They were able to see a bit more on Huck’s left side than they originally thought. Originally they could not see a significant left ventricle, and could not see the aorta (the main artery that comes out of the left ventricle). This time, they could see both main arteries but they looked to be feeding from a single ventricle. It was explained to us that his potential diagnosis could change. (Side note, all diagnoses given during pregnancy are considered potential because he won’t be officially officially diagnosed until birth and they can get a good echo on him.) He said that instead of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, we could be looking at a variation of double outlet single ventricle, and that he was leaning towards saying it was the right ventricle, (DORV) but wasn’t quite sure. (Remember this part – the fact that he couldn’t commit to saying which ventricle other than it looked to be a single ventricle with a tiny second ventricle was a bit of foreshadowing on what came later.) He said this doesn’t mean anything major except that the urgency of Huck’s first surgery may change. HLHS babies absolutely need surgery within the first week to be able to live, but DORV babies can sometimes wait a few weeks and in less extreme cases, a few months. That would all have to be determined for sure after he is born. But we left that appointment with two things accomplished – we were so glad for even the slightest improvement in potential diagnosis and we also got his recommendation for birth and surgeries to be performed at a tertiary hospital. We got the phone call from my OB’s office that afternoon that the recommendation had been submitted to insurance and that finalized the first referral. And then we waited.

To be continued…