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 | Counting Chickens 


What you don’t see in these pictures – Huck basically hugging my hand with both of his hands, this momma losing her mind, sobbing uncontrollably over what might be happening, and the team of doctors flying around us setting up machines, placing lines, and making a lot of very fast paced decisions. 

Earlier this week, we started the discharge process with plans of getting to go home today (Wednesday). It’s basically the same situation with switching from CVICU to step down unit; they have a single ventricle checklist to make sure he’s ready to go which is really just a lot of testing, blood work, and regular baby milestones. When we left CVICU the first time, a week ago, one of the checklist items was an echo (an ultrasound of his heart if you’re new around here), which looked great, so off we went to our new digs. To get discharged, it’s a similar process – he had to gain weight appropriately, eat a certain percentage of his bottles, get an echo, get a brain MRI, get a chest X-ray, we had to get various education sessions, pass a car seat test, I mean really the list keeps going. But these items are in place for a reason and thankfully, Huck had his “go home” echo yesterday afternoon, just to make sure his heart was functioning okay. 

While we waited on the echo to be read, we proceeded with the next item on the list, his car seat test, which he passed! This is just a test where they make him sit in his car seat for two hours and make sure he won’t lose oxygen or stop breathing or anything strange. 

While he was getting car seat tested, Nolan went to get us some dinner from Cliff’s Grill. (Which I highly recommend if you’re in the Medical Center area. Their southwest burger is amazing!) We hadn’t even taken the first bite of food when suddenly, half of his single ventricle team came walking in the room. 

They explained somewhat quickly that between the last echo a week ago and the new echo, they noticed part of his single ventricle was not squeezing the way it should. They called it “mild to moderate”, with “severe” basically being heart failure. Thankfully it was noticed before the point of heart failure, and additionally all of his stats and monitoring were considered perfect and he acted completely normal and calm, which they said was all very confusing to them. They wanted to do a CT scan to figure out exactly what was going on. They thought there might be an issue with one of his coronary arteries which would have been indicated by the ventricle not squeezing properly. They explained that for the CT scan, they had to do a breath hold to get the perfect picture, which means he had to be reintubated so that they could manually make him hold his breath. To do all of that, he would also need to be sedated, so via standard protocol, they called in the rapid response team to transport him back to the CVICU. 

At that point, we were told a broad spectrum of what to expect – this could end up being nothing, if there was something wrong with the artery, they could possibly do a catheter procedure to fix it, if there is a major problem (which they did say was unlikely based on his appearance, stats and behavior), they’ll have to take him back into surgery, open him up and fix it. We knew in the back of our minds that he could also crash at any time during this process if there was truly something wrong. So I stayed with him the whole time – while they transported him, sedated him, intubated him and took him for his CT scan. I will truly know this kiddo inside and out before he’s even a month old. 

The CT scan was very quick. Apparently TCH has a top of the line CT machine and people come from all over the world to use it because it captures things in mere seconds. Huck’s entire heart function was captured in less than 5 seconds. They told me in the CT room that the radiologist was at home but waiting on our scans to come through and would read them asap and get back to us within an hour or so. 

About 15 minutes after we got back in the radiologist called and said his CT was perfect! Our baby boy has pulled out the stops once again! I cried for the hundredth time that evening, so thankful that he was okay. They extubated him late last night when the sedation started to wear off and he was put back on an oxygen cannula for the time being. He is doing well right now, a little grumpy and uncomfortable but I’m hoping he’s back to his normal sweet self very soon. 

We are incredibly thankful for the team of people at TCH that double check and triple check before sending you on your way and for our surgeon and his team who are absolute angels for saving our baby boy’s life. My sweet husband also deserves some recognition for being my rock through all of our tough times. He has taken on our wild Whitlee so that I can be with Huck right now and he’s managed to keep his sanity through all of it, while keeping me in the right mind set too. 


We’re currently waiting on the doctors to round so that we can find out exactly what they think they saw, why it’s okay now, and what the plan is going forward. This was a temporary setback in our journey home, but I can’t even tell you how relieved we are right now after a whirlwind emotional night. 

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 Inlow


Huck Inlow Hillin entered the world on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 10:09 PM via successful VBAC. He weighs 6 lbs 11 oz and is 20″. 

We are both doing well and should have a plan for his heart in the next day or so! We are all so in love with him and can’t believe how good he looks and how calm he is. He is very alert and seems to be tolerating his procedures pretty well!

Full birth story coming 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!