Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Heart of the Littlest Warrior

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Women's Lifestyle Magazine
April 2014 Issue

This story was part of a series written for the American Heart Association of West Michigan.

When Lindsay and Bob Tawoda went to their doctor’s office, filled with the anticipation of new parents at finding out their baby’s gender, the news was far from what they expected. In March 2012, Lindsay was 20 weeks into her pregnancy, and they found out that they were having a son. They also found out that their son had a heart defect.

“We were both devastated,” Lindsay Tawoda says. “And because we both have a scientific background—we both work at MPI Research—it was this curse and blessing at once. Understanding helped us cope, but it also meant we knew enough that this was serious.”

After a nearly unbearable three weeks of waiting for more information about the heart defect, a pediatric cardiologist told the Tawodas that their son, whom they had named Cooper Owen, meaning “warrior,” had a rare congenital heart defect called pulmonary atresia and hypoplastic right heart syndrome, in which the right atrium and right valve of the heart are underdeveloped.

“We were told that the only way to repair this condition was with a series of three surgeries soon after Cooper was born, up to age 3,” says Lindsay. “We were sent to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor to tour the hospital and meet the surgeon. It was really nice to be able to do that ahead of time, and to have that time to get prepared.”

The Tawodas’ physicians in Kalamazoo, Dr. Robert Austin at Bronson Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Dr. James Loker, cardiologist at Bronson Pediatric Cardiology, cared for them until it would be time to check in at the Ann Arbor hospital. They were able to prepare their daughter Izzy, 3 years old when her baby brother was born, for the family’s time away from home.

Lindsay was scheduled for a C-section when it was time for Cooper to be born.

“He was born weighing 9 pounds, a good size for surgery, and as soon as he was born, they whisked him away,” Lindsay recalls.

It was another eight hours before mother could hold her child, and the moment was emotional. “He looked normal, maybe just a slight blue color to him.”

The first of three surgeries was performed when Cooper was three days old, placing a shunt into his heart to maintain blood flow, a four-hour procedure. Five months later, the second surgery was done, and the third will be performed on Cooper when he reaches his third birthday.

"His lung collapsed in both surgeries," says Lindsay. "But he ..."

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