A Kamloops family of five is thankful to BC Children’s Hospital Heart Centre after two of their sons were born with potentially fatal congenital heart defects.
Angela and Emery Parker, the parents of the two boys, said the experience was like a nightmare.
“We didn't even know really that kids could get congenital heart defects,” Angela Parker told Castanet Kamloops.
“As a new mom, it was scary and emotional — and you just kind of wanted to run away and hide, but you can’t.”
DIAGNOSES AND SURGERIES
Cohen, the family’s second child, was born at home during a planned home birth. The following day, the midwife noticed that he was struggling while nursing.
The family was sent to Royal Inland Hospital where an echocardiogram was performed.
“That's when we were notified that something was wrong with our baby's heart,” Angela said.
Cohen and Angela were then airlifted to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“He had an ASD, which is an atrial septal defect, and that's basically a hole in his heart. And he also had a PBA, which is a patent ductus arteriosus, which is also a hole in his aorta," Angela said.
"And the big one, the complex one, which is called TGA. So it's the transposition of the great arteries. And it's a it's a complex heart disorder defect. The two main arteries are switched so they're not connected as they should be."
Cohen went into surgery at eight days old. Three weeks later the family was back home in Kamloops following a successful operation.
Two years later and late into Angela’s third pregnancy, it was discovered that she had a condition called polyhydramnios.
“It was just the extra amniotic fluid building up,” Angela explained.
She was relocated to Vancouver five weeks prior to Nash’s birth.
“He was born with a condition called VACTERL Association, which affects multiple parts of his body and his heart is one of those. He spent 10 weeks in the hospital in the NICU at BC Children's and battled with eating issues and respiratory issues and congestive heart failure.”
Nash had three surgeries following his birth at BC Women’s Hospital. Fifteen months after a surgery to repair the ventricular septal defect in his heart, Nash underwent surgery again.
“Once again, we passed our baby to the surgical team and he had open heart surgery,” Angela said.
The family was back in Kamloops two weeks after the surgery.
BC CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL
Both Angela and Emery are thankful to BC Children’s hospital for the care they received.
“They took great care of the boys and they also took great care of us,” said Angela.
“It's the only hospital devoted to children and youth in our province. It's been incredible. They have everything there. Our family depend on BC Children's for the specialized care that we can't get anywhere else. There's lots of trips back and forth from Kamloops to Vancouver. But yeah, we depend on BC Children's for everything that they can do for our boys.”
The parents said that through BC Children’s they were able to connect with the Children’s Heart Network which connected them to other families facing similar struggles.
“Through that, we just got like more understanding and just knew that we weren't alone in this process,” said Emery.
“It just made us feel, you know, okay, we're not alone. And and we can get through this.”
The parents said that the network allowed them to bond and connect with other parents.
“It almost felt like we knew them since 15 to 20 years. It's like it was just a relationship already pre-built. And it was phenomenal to be able to talk to them and and just let it out,” Emery said.
The family said the support they received made it easier the second time around.
“Because we knew he was in the best hands and is going to get the best care. And because of the connections we have developed and built with the heart team, we knew that it was going to be okay,” said Emery.
“Yeah, it definitely is the place that you want to be at when your child is sick or facing any kind of health issues or battles,” Angela said.
COHEN AND NASH
The parents stated that both Cohen, now five years old, and Nash, three years old, are thriving after their experiences at BC Children’s.
“Cohen is thriving. He's rough and tumble. He loves to play sports. He loves to be tickled. And he loves to ride his bike. He started kindergarten this year. He's doing extremely well. He's super kind and caring, but yet very determined and strong willed. And he's got a smile that lights up a room,” said Angela.
“Nash is super energetic. He's your typical kind of crazy and wild three year old. He loves to keep up with, and wants to keep up with his brothers and he's trying really hard. Yeah, he's just outgoing. And he's got a big personality.”
The parents said that they want to raise awareness for parents in similar circumstances.
“We'd like to talk about just how important it is for people to donate to the BC Children's Hospital Foundation. Because they do provide specialized and life-saving care to everybody — all the kids in B.C. It is the place that you want to be at when your kid is sick, for sure,” said Angela.
“And to just let the families know that they're not alone. There's a whole support system out there that if they reach out, you know, it's there for them to help get through these times of need,” said Emery.
More information on donating to the BC Children's Hospital Foundation is available at bcchf.ca.