While I’m waiting for the landscape to improve to match the weather (20 degree days plus brown grass and bare trees just doesn’t match in my books) I thought I might share a few personal stories. This particular one is the story of my nephew, Chase.
Chase was born on December 18th, 2009, at 3:10 in the afternoon. He is my sister’s first baby, the first grandchild on my mom’s side of the family, and my first biological niece or nephew (though I’ve been blessed with 10 other nieces & nephews – Hi guys!). He was also born a sick little boy.
Chase was born with what’s called a hypoplastic left heart. That means, in essence, that the left side of his heart failed to develop for some reason. Anyone who remembers high school biology will recall that the left side of he heart is the part that pumps blood to your body. Chase was left with only the smaller right side, which is designed to only pump to the lungs & back again.
This was all discovered in-utero, and the doctors had a plan in place for when he was born. Step one was giving him some drugs that sustained his life immediately after birth, to give the doctors time to get a good look at just how severe his condition was. Step two was surgery, the first of three surgeries that take place over the first five years of his life. It is a complicated, complex surgery that essentially re-plumbs his cardiovascular system to allow him to survive and grow as an infant. It comes with its own complications, and is only a temporary measure. Needless to say, that surgery was a success.
In the interim, we’ve had four terrific months with the little plugger. He’s growing like a weed. Like’s the food that mom’s got on the menu. And he’s starting to develop quite the personality too. He’s got the baby smiles. And the baby giggles, if you know how to get them out of him.
The reason that I’m writing about him now is that he’s due for his second surgery in the next few weeks. The first was a temporary measure, allowing his little body time to grow and mature so that the next surgery can go a little easier. The second surgery is a little more long-term. After some more plumbing, his heart will be more able to keep up with his body as he grows into an active toddler. He is as good a candidate for this surgery as there is, but it’s still major open-heart surgery. It’s still scary.
When I think about Chase, it’s easy to get lost in the present. After all, what’s a more precious moment than one spent with a baby in your arms? But I also spend time thinking about his future. The prognosis for people going through the surgeries that he has and will go through is reasonably good, and his in particular is excellent. There is no cure for a hypoplastic heart, though. He will still always be a boy (and soon enough, a man) with half a heart. He probably won’t be an athlete. He most likely won’t climb Kilimanjaro, or run a marathon, or play hockey. None of that really matters, of course. He might be a writer, or a scientist, or a doctor, or even a photographer. And what he will certainly be able to do is, in two months, he can be a big cousin to my little one on the way. That is what excited me the most about the future. Watching the next generation come into the world and grow and become who they want to be.
In the meanwhile, he’s just going to have to get used to sitting in front of my camera, whether he likes it or not.