Tag Archives: Tetralogy of Fallot

Tetralogy of Fallot: A Personal Journey PT. 6

In late January 2018, we welcomed our beautiful daughter, Finley, into the world via C-section. As she turns ONE tomorrow, I can’t help but reflect on all of this past year’s challenges, its moments of pure love and its unexpected grace.

On day three of knowing little Finney, we found out that she failed her in-hospital hearing test in her left ear. We were told that it could just be liquid from the C-Section and that it would most likely go away. A couple weeks after we went home we had her hearing re-tested. The audiologist gave us the news that she indeed did have hearing loss, it was mild, but it was permanent. The proverbial bottom broke out of me. I just stood in the lobby hugging Scott, Caddie and Finney just crying. Crying because both of our kids now have “something” they have to medically deal with. Crying because I felt personally victimized by the universe. How was this even happening? Would she go deaf? They couldn’t tell us because they didn’t know what was causing the hearing loss. Over the course of 2018, we would continue our search for the cause of her hearing loss.

Caddie had his second open heart surgery when Finney was only 6 weeks old. It was a lot of stress and I think I detached emotionally to some extent from what was happening. Caddie got a new cadaver heart valve which we are forever grateful for. The surgery itself went much more uneventful than his first open heart. When I saw Caddie on the bed post-op, a flood of emotions overcame me. I just knew that first 24 hrs after surgery anything could happen. Let’s not kid ourselves, anything can happen anytime, but I just felt the fragility of life right then with all my being. A day or so later his first word after the breathing tube was removed was “truck”. Scott and I laughed because we knew our truck-loving boy was coming back to us. Through all of this, I think Finley kept me sane and helped me have a focus outside of my anxiety. In a lot of ways, she is my angel for this very reason. It was therapeutic to have a little baby who didn’t know what was going on and needed you both physically and emotionally.

Day two post-op, you wouldn’t even believe Caddie had just been through open heart surgery! He was healing so quickly and everything was right on track until…..he wouldn’t take his oral medicine. We had to stay three extra days in the hospital just because he refused to take any medicine. We tried everything. I mean it guys, we tried EVERYTHING. Even the doctors were scratching their heads. Whenever a new doctor came through, they would tell us to try to put the medicine in chocolate pudding. Guess who has the one kid who doesn’t want to eat pudding? I told Scott “if one more person tells me to give him chocolate pudding…” By the grace of God, we finally were able to get him to take it by hiding it in a banana.

Fast forward a couple of months, Caddie got Pneumonia. Again, he doesn’t take oral meds of any kind, so we had to take him each day to the dr. to get shots. The screaming, the temper tantrums, the refusal to take medicine- some days it’s all too much to bear.  Especially because for him, this medicine is so crucial. That makes it all the more stressful for me. We can’t wait for him to grow out of this phase.

Outside of that, we had a few months of “life as normal” where we routinely savored the little moments together. This included visits from family and a small mini-vacation to Cleveland.

In early September, Caddie got the stomach flu for the first time. Then after the stomach flu, he got a cold where he ended up in the hospital on oxygen. Because this was his third time in the hospital with respiratory issues in his life, he was diagnosed with cold-induced asthma. When he gets sick, his airways constrict and bacteria or something festers. I don’t know, I’m not a dr. We were prescribed inhalers so now he takes a daily dose of Flovent and hopefully, that will keep him out of the hospital this winter. At the very least, I like the fact I can give him something. It makes me feel like I have a weapon in my back pocket that I never had before.

A week after he was released from the hospital with his cold, he had a heart echo. We found out that his brand new heart valve had moderate to severe leaking, rendering it basically ineffective. A lot of hopeless feelings came with this news. We put our little boy through open heart surgery for this valve and now it wasn’t working. It was time for a new cath procedure to help lower the pressure building in his heart again.

In November right before Thanksgiving, Caddie had this cath procedure. They put a stent over the new valve was which lowered the pressure in his heart to the lowest it’s been in his whole life which is a blessing. His pesky left lung artery branches were still so tiny. The stenosis reached up into places they can’t stent, but they did balloon it open and that allowed the blood to flow. My hope is that it will finally stay open, but it’s been three years of battling his left lung, and so far the lung has had the upper hand. While they were in there they said they found what looks like an aneurysm off of the right branch of his pulmonary artery. They thought it was created when the surgeon stitched him back up and they didn’t think it would affect him. I left the hospital that day feeling upbeat and optimistic, however, that feeling didn’t last long.

The very next day my beautiful Aunt went in for open heart surgery to treat an aneurysm and some blockages. Early the next morning she passed away. It was so heart-wrenching and sent me into a small panic over Caddie’s “aneurysm” even though they were two completely different situations. Caddie’s cardiologist was nice enough to listen to me cry over the phone just minutes after hearing about my aunt’s passing. He decided that a CT scan to look at it closer was the next step. A few days later, we did the CT scan and the doctors still believed it wouldn’t hurt him. They will do a follow-up CT scan later in 2019.

Since CT scans were trending, we had Finney undergo one in December to try and diagnose what was causing her hearing loss. “Everybody Gets a CT Scan!!” *in Oprah’s voice* As luck would have it, they were able to find out the source of her hearing loss. She has what’s called Enlarged Vestibular Aqueducts in both of her ears. This can be a progressive hearing loss that has a “wait-and-see” reactive treatment. She could potentially go deaf in both ears. We also found out this malformation in her ears could be caused by Pendred’s Syndrome so they took blood to run some genetic testing for us. We had to wait four weeks and two days before they gave us the results, not that I was keeping track. I am happy to report that she doesn’t have this syndrome which is great! If her hearing loss progresses to deafness, then she will be a candidate for cochlear implants. She will always have the ability to hear one way or another which is a blessing for multiple reasons. She already LOVES music and bops up and down every time a song comes on.

We are really excited to see what 2019 offers. We hope it will be medically uneventful as we had a lot of hurdles in 2018. We also had so many amazing memories that we thank God for every day. Thank you to everyone in our lives who made those hard days so much easier. From breaking into our house and doing all of our laundry, to watching our kids so Scott and I could take a breather, to offering calming advice and a listening ear (and sometimes a shoulder to cry on), to caring for our babies like they are your own…we can’t thank our village of friends and family and doctors (and doctors who have become family) enough. We are forever indebted to you all.

Tomorrow Finney turns one and on Sunday we celebrate not only her, but our little family that could. Cheers to you and your village, may you all have a happy and HEALTHY 2019!


Celebrate Life Free Session Giveaway!

As some of you know, our son was born with Tetrology of Fallot, a series of congenital heart defects. Two weeks ago we watched as he had open heart surgery for the second time in his little life. Going through an event like that really puts everything in perspective. It gives you a new clarity on what it means to deeply love someone and the importance of cherishing every moment.
Today we celebrate life! And I want everyone out there who has a beautiful loving family to celebrate with us! That’s why I’m offering a free 1 hr family session in the Columbus, OH area to one of my facebook or instagram users! To enter, like my page and tag two friends who you think have a beautiful loving family worth celebrating in the comments below. Winner will be announced April 2nd! In addition to the contest, I’m also offering $150 off any family sessions booked for April, May and June (only $350 for an hour session including all edited images!)

SMiling little boy playing in the snow

Tetralogy of Fallot: A Personal Journey Pt. 5

Caddie has thrived through another year with Tetralogy of Fallot thanks to his spirit, his team of amazing doctors, and his village of family and friends who have all wrapped him in a protective force field of love.

This year has proven to be notable for a few reasons as it refers to his condition.

Earlier this year, I woke up to a slew of text messages asking me if I had watched Jimmy Kimmel from the night before. I groggily found the video online and when he started his monologue it hit me like a ton of bricks.

His brand new son had the very same thing Caddie has, only they weren’t lucky enough to find out before birth like we were. Watching Jimmy Kimmel battle on-air to not cry was like a time warp back to the time when we went through the same thing. My heart dropped for the Kimmel family and I started to cry because for one of the first times in my life I could truly 100% empathize and fully understand what someone else was going through. I thought he was brave to use his platform to bring to life the struggles that ordinary families have when faced with their children’s pre-existing conditions. I was a little shocked at the fact he received so much backlash. It felt like those people were also lashing out at our family. I’m so thankful he was able to elevate his situation to a national spotlight and use it to advocate for the children.

And that brings me to the healthcare debate. Without getting into personal beliefs or opinions, I will say it’s been a scary year to have a child with a major pre-existing condition. Each of the bills presented in the Senate seemed to be drafted so quickly and lawmakers were being encouraged to approve them through before enough information on how these laws would affect people could be gathered. It was scary because we live with the reality that at any moment just based on new laws, our family and millions like us could go into debt for the rest of our lives just trying to keep our son healthy and thriving. Every three months or so this past year, there would be about two weeks of white knuckling through watching the news. We’re still paying exorbitant amounts of money to meet our out-of-pocket max each year, but we’re so thankful we are able to work extra hard to gather the funds to cover it on our own.

Caddie had his third heart cath procedure scheduled for November 13th of this year, which was a Monday. The week before on Tuesday, he started to get a cold which never cleared up completely before his operation date, so his cardiac team made the decision to postpone it until mid-December. I’m so glad they played it safe and rescheduled, but it was also heartbreaking to mentally prepare for it and then have to go back to waiting.

We were bound and determined to keep him well for his next scheduled cath date for multiple reasons, the biggest one being we’re expecting our second born, a little girl at the end of this month, exactly two weeks from today! If he wasn’t well enough to do the cath in December, we might have had to wait until after the birth of our daughter.

As December 18th approached, we kept Caddie home and out of daycare- completely quarantined- and wouldn’t you know it? He came down with not only one, but two colds- fever and all! Three days before his cath, he started feeling better. The day before, he was perfectly healthy. On the 18th, he woke up with a runny nose and a small cough but no fever. Gotta love cold and flu season. His cardiology team determined he was well enough to have the procedure which felt like a miracle!

The whole Nationwide Children’s Hospital team made the experience so great. They ask you to fill out a little information sheet on your child, about what soothes them, likes, dislikes, etc. Caddie has been obsessed with Mickey, and when we took him back to the doors of the Cath lab, they had Mickey’s Clubhouse playing loud on their widescreen operating television. Caddie pointed into the room and was even a little excited to see that Mickey was playing. Before you know it, he was off to dreamland. It’s the little things like that that make a difference, mostly for the parents, but I will never forget it.

About three hours into the cath, one of the nurses we’ve gotten to know came out and gave us some bad news. The stent to Caddies left pulmonary artery (left lung branch) had closed itself and so there was almost no blood flow going to his left lung. Because of this, the pressure on his heart was still high and it was determined he was going to need another open heart surgery for a new pulmonary valve in the spring of 2018, right smack dab when we have a newborn! This news hit us like a freight train, as we had fully expected his stents were working, his lung was growing and we might be able to delay this surgery until he was 4 or 5 years old. Tears came as we sat and processed his reality. Less than an hour later we found out the cath team was able to re-establish blood flow to the Left Pulmonary Artery again. The flow is now the same as it was at the end of his last cath in April. What a blessing! Surgery was still going to happen, however.

Over the next few days we processed so many emotions and now feel a sense of relief that a solid timeframe has been established for this major surgery and a new hope that having a new pulmonary valve will make him stronger and help relieve the pressure on his heart. I’m not going to lie, through those feelings its hard not to get angry at his situation. To have your beautiful child go through cath procedures and then have them not work (through no fault of anyone) is really difficult. You’re left with a hopeless feeling, but at the end of the day, all you really have is hope to cling on to.

The very next day we were able to come home and celebrate the Christmas season with a very happy and very healthy Caddie. He loved opening his gifts and playing with his new trucks and trains.

Saturday, December 30th he woke up from his afternoon nap with very rapid breathing and we had to take him to the ER. It turns out that he had two viruses, neither of which were cardiac related but did need supportive care as his body fought them off. That night I only got 3 hours of sleep and had to wake up and shoot a new years wedding 8.5 months pregnant while Caddie was still on breathing support in the hospital. Survival mode kicked in harder than ever and I swear to you, thanks to a raging surge of adrenaline and guidance from some close confidants, I felt better at this wedding than others I’ve shot last year! The next morning I was back with my little man in the hospital. He was doing much better and the very next day we were able to take him home! We decided no more daycare until after our little girl arrives. Apparently, the respitory viruses have been no joke this year.

So that’s where we are now. We don’t have a surgery date yet but I do have a lot of anxiety about the beginning of 2018. And so like always, I will cling to hope. I feel like after we get past this early spring hurdle hopefully ending with Caddie having a successful surgery, past cold and flu season, with a new member of our family, life just might just feel euphoric!

This week has been pretty blissful. Caddie was able to really play in some deep snow for the first time in his life and he loved it! He has been giving the deepest hugs, the sweetest kisses and smiles ear-to-ear. It’s such a blessing that you’d never know he had anything wrong with him just by looking. We are so thankful for his team of doctors, nurses and surgeons who create miracles on him and countless other kids like Caddie every single day. Thank you for keeping this little angel in your hearts and prayers for a successful and uneventful open heart surgery in a few short months.

Tetralogy of Fallot: A Personal Journey Pt.4

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written an update on our son’s Congenital Heart Disease. As we get further from Caddie’s first open heart surgery, we also unfortunately inch towards his next one. I wish I could find some comfort in the fact he has one under his belt, but the truth is, it’s never going to get easier. I will say, however, that I have come a long way since we found out about Caddie’s CHD, both as a mother and as a person who has always has an innate fear of death and dying.

In April Caddie underwent a heart Catheterization. They started everything by getting detailed imagery of his pulmonary branches to determine the extent of the narrowing and how they were going to proceed in the Cath lab. Something that surprised me is that it seems like the doctors make game-time decisions on how they will operate. I suppose to a certain extent that happens in a lot of professions, but it goes to show how lucky we are to have Doctors and Nurses locally who are able to adapt and be ready for anything at a moment’s notice.

I think the procedure lasted around four hours start to finish. When the doctor was done he came and talked to us in a private room, showed us the detailed imagery and walked us through what he and his team had done. One of the first things he said to us was, “There was impressive narrowing to the left pulmonary branch.” I think it’s pretty funny that Doctors call something impressive when they really mean terrible. Scott and I joked about that for days….we called everything impressive. That’s an impressive dump you took in your diaper Caddie, etc.

The doctor explained to us that his left pulmonary branch, which should have been about 7mm in diameter, was less than 1mm. He said it was about as small of an opening you can get and still HAVE a pulmonary branch be there. He said they had trouble getting the Catheter lead in him, let alone the stents. By the grace of God, they were able to get everything through that they needed and they opened up his pulmonary branch with a stent to 3mm, effectively tripling its size. Opening this up should help the blood flow more to his left lung and hopefully help it grow and develop. It will also help balance pressure exerted on the heart and the right pulmonary branch.


We will go back in September for another heart echo and for a consult with the doctor about what our next steps should be. I’m assuming the next logical step would be to see if they can open the stent they put in to 5mm, but that’s yet to be determined.

Some of you who know me might be surprised to have seen me write “by the grace of God” above. I have never been religious and in all honesty I’m not sure I even believe in God. However, Scott and I have been so awe-struck at some of the circumstances in our life that could not be explained any other way than miraculous. It’s Caddie’s pediatrician who taught me the phrase “by the grace of God” and I think it’s a beautiful way to give appreciation to unexplainable things in your life that you are grateful for. By the grace of God they were able to get Caddie’s stents in and he came out of the operation with no complications. By the grace of God we have the most loving and caring support system anyone could ask for. By the grace of God he is the happiest little 9.5 month old anyone could ask for.

Each and every day I think about his condition and find myself worrying about the future. I always try to stop myself and most days I’m really good about mentally focusing on other things like his killer smile, his warm snuggles, and his crazy almost-toddler acrobatics. Sometimes the fear of something terrible happening is more overwhelming than my strength to ignore it. Those times are thankfully coming less and less. In no uncertain terms, a sense of humor has gotten us through our worst days. As I was scanning in Caddie’s heart imagery, I found the sheet they made us fill out in the hospital. He was only four months old, so we didn’t really take it seriously, and we also didn’t think anyone would really read it. When they wheeled him in after the operation, the nurse looks at us and says, “White wine spritzer???” with her eyebrows up.


Our little man turns ONE in October, and what a milestone it will be! DSC_5102 Every year with him will truly be a celebration of life and the deepest love I’ve ever known.



Tetralogy of Fallot: A Personal Journey Pt.3

I’m not going to lie…I’ve been avoiding writing about this for about 6 months. This has undeniably been the most difficult time I’ve ever had in my life. I have been writing the blog post updates in my head and then letting the words just float away, never to write them down. Why? I’m not exactly sure. Maybe it’s all been too difficult to sit with and process. I will start with this week and then jump back to September for a full update.

Today is a great day. My baby boy came home from the hospital over a month ago after having his “full repair” open heart surgery for Tetralogy of Fallot. He slept in my arms today, smiled ear-to-ear, filled his diaper a healthy few times, and otherwise acted like a perfectly normal 4 month old without a care in the world. In my brain, there is a heavy dose of emotional dust still lingering from the last two months, but I have learned to savor the many blessings of our new reality.

Last September I had a fetal heart echo on my birthday. I had made myself so sick and nervous over this that I refused to have anyone celebrate my birthday. It actually ended up being the best birthday gift ever, because we were told that our baby, even though he had TOF, was on the good spectrum of this disease and his pulmonary artery was growing really well. We were also told that he would probably be able to come home with us after he was born instead of going to Children’s Hospital for a shunt. It felt like our prayers were starting to be answered and everything was going to be just fine.


blog 3Scott took this selfie right before joining me in the OR for our C-Section.

In October, we went to the hospital on the 27th to be induced. 28 hours of labor later, they decided to do a C-section because of my failure to progress. Our baby boy, Cadel (pronounced Kuh-Dell), was born in all his beautiful baby glory on October 28th at 10:54am. When Scott and I heard his crying scream for the first time, it was a flood of emotion. I think I felt every gooey good feeling in the world all at once, and we both just started to cry. I only got to see him very briefly before going to recovery, and Cadel was sent directly to the NICU for a heart echo. Following my hour in recovery, I became extremely sick and couldn’t sit, stand or talk without throwing up. TMI. I only share that because looking back on the situation, it’s pretty funny. I was having serious conversations with cardiologists, nurses and doctors about our son while actively vomiting in front of them as they talked to me. It was probably like trying to have a conversation with the girl from The Exorcist. Long story short, I started to feel better after getting my blood sugar back up and was able to go and hold our baby for the first time that night. It was the most amazing feeling. He was such a cute perfect little man and the idea that he was sick was so confusing because he looked so normal and so healthy. We stayed in the NICU until his PDA closed off and we knew he’d be stable. A PDA is a natural shunt that supplies oxygen to the blood stream during pregnancy, as a fetus doesn’t use their own lungs. TOF babies are typically a-symptomatic when they are born because this natural shunt is still in place. As it naturally shuts itself off, it becomes apparent what condition he’s actually in. We were so lucky because our little man was healthy enough to come home with us instead of having an operation. His blood oxygen saturation levels were hovering in the low 90s.

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At home It became clear that being a new mom came with some unexpected challenges. Did you know that around 80% of new moms experience what’s called “baby blues”? It’s basically a condition that makes you feel batsh*t crazy for about two weeks. For a while, it was a full on war against my brain as the flood gates to my anxiety had been opened. Sleep and a lot of support from friends and family helped me come out on top of this time with a smile on my face. Day by day, things started to settle, and still, when I looked at our son, all I saw was a healthy smiley, strong little boy. But his reality was unfortunately not based on what he looked like.

Cadel’s blood oxygenation levels started to drop by early December, when he was in the low 70s. The cardiac team started him on some medication which helped raise those levels to the low 80s until he could have surgery, scheduled for January 7th. As luck would have it, he developed a dairy protein intolerance right around the time of his surgery. The surgical team didn’t feel comfortable putting him on heart bypass if he had even a little bit of blood in his stool, so his surgery was delayed until January 18th.

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I wanted to document Cadel’s scar-free body one last time.


I’m sure you can imagine that was a long ten days for us. You build yourself up to be ready for surgery, and then when it’s delayed, each day passes by at snails pace. When the day came, I was actually very eager to hand him over the the surgery team around 7:30am. I was excited to get him on a path to recovery and I was relieved his surgery hadn’t been delayed a second time.

All was going well and the Columbus Children’s Hospital was keeping us up to date with direct text messages. It was pretty cool. We knew exactly when his heart bypass had started, when the surgeon was making his first incision, , etc. etc. At around 2:30pm a nurse came out and told us there was a setback. She said that when they went in to do their full repair, the left branch of his pulmonary artery was actually extremely small and needed to have a “patch” on it, meaning they expand it to make it larger. The patch they put on was twisting a little when they tried to take him off heart bypass preventing his heart from effectively beating on his own. They said they had to put him back on bypass so they could re-make that patch. Here’s what I heard: your baby’s heart isn’t beating on its own. We’re going to do our best to fix it. Here’s what I thought: what happens if they can’t fix it? Will we lose him?

And there I was, face to face with my biggest fear I had been hoping, praying and pleading with the universe I wouldn’t have to face. I was sitting with it for about two hours until the nurse came out and said he had been taken off bypass, the surgeon was finishing up, and his heart WAS beating on his own. In that moment, we all sprung to our feet, hugged and cried. There was such a huge sense of relief. Little did I know, the journey wasn’t over yet.

We were able to join him in the CTICU less than an hour after he was out of surgery. He was hooked up to so many machines and he still had his breathing tube in. I didn’t see any of that when I looked at him. All I saw was his perfect little face. He was so much pinker than we had ever seen him. I didn’t really ever think he was pale before the surgery, but it became apparent that he was when I saw how rosey he was after.

That night, about four hours after he was out of surgery, he developed a heart rate over 200. The two sides of his heart were also not talking to each other, giving him heart arrhythmia. We slept at his side in the CTICU on a pull out couch and all night his alarms were going off, warning the nurses that his heart rate was racing too high. It was a scary and almost surreal thing to live through. The next morning, it almost felt like a dream.

Normally they would “jump” the heart using a pace wire that had been inserted in surgery. His pace wire for some reason wasn’t working, so they couldn’t jump start his heart into beating correctly. The condition he developed, called JET, had to work itself out naturally, which we were told usually happened within 72 hours. Our little man kicked it in about 48 hours. Now, waiting two whole days for his heart to normalize felt like weeks, but once he came out of JET, things slowly started to get better each day. He had a lot of liquid around his lungs from being on bypass for so long, so that’s what took the better part of the entire second week to clear up. Each day came with emotional ups and downs, and it was hard (nearly impossible) but completely necessary to keep our focus on the larger picture. He WAS slowly getting better.


About two days before we were able to take him home, on day 11, he started to smile and interact as usual. I think this is when Scott and I finally felt a sense of relief. When we did take him home on day 13, it was almost like nothing had happened to him, of course the same can’t be said for us. His scar had all but healed in that short amount of time, and it doesn’t look bad at all. In fact, I’ve come to love it which still surprises me.


So while I’ve written about this experience and how scary and crazy it was, I also want to mention some things that have been blessings.

– We have the best, most loving friends, family and community that has come together to support this little angel. It’s hard to even put into words how much all of their support has meant to us.

– I don’t take one day for granted with him. Sometimes my anxiety gets the best of me and it’s easy to go negative. I have a mantra that I’ve started to repeat to myself since coming home from the hospital. “We are only promised today.” And I will be thankful for each and every day that I’m given with him. I am getting better at living in the moment, which has always been something I’ve struggled with. Don’t get me wrong- I’m still horrible at it, but I’m getting better.

– I easily forget he’s sick. Having a kid is for the most part seriously fun. When you look into your child’s eyes, they are so much more than any adversity they’re born with. I happen to think our kid is one of the coolest children I’ve ever met. He’s totally going to trick us into having more.

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Cadel is over 4 months old now and will be having follow-up catheterization procedures at the end of April. To say I’m nervous about it is an understatement. They will be going back into his heart, looking at a patch from his surgery that is leaking, and also expanding and putting shunts into his pulmonary artery. This is a non-invasive procedure, so he won’t be due for another open heart surgery for a couple of years. Like all procedures, however, it comes with risks. Risks that I’m aware of but try not to think about.

Sometimes I still get caught up in the “why did this have to happen to him?”, like a record skipping. He certainly doesn’t deserve this. And that’s when I take a step back, and I try to re-align myself with HIS reality. (By the way, I’m really bad at doing this, too, so Scott has to help me with it sometimes) Cadel doesn’t know the difference right now, and by the time he does, hopefully the condition will simply be about monitoring and maintaining. Most of the “bad” things that I’ve lived through so far in this experience have been a result of my fear and emotions, and not a result of his condition. If I were giving advice to any parent about to watch their infant go through major surgery, I would encourage them to try and maintain a sense of perspective throughout the entire experience. TOF is extremely treatable. Your entire family will be stronger for living through it. And lastly, and most importantly, for as scary and hard as the bad stuff is, the good stuff is equally joyus and that much more rewarding.

Tetralogy of Fallot: A Personal Journey Pt. 2

First things first, thank you so much to all of the amazing friends and family who reached out to me and shared your own stories. Talking with you has helped open my eyes to the realities of how many people live with not only heart conditions, but other scares and hardships life can offer. Hearing your stories have helped the world seem smaller and more manageable. That pesky fear of the unknown  is still always hitting a buzzer in my head, going “don’t forget about me! I’m the worst case scenario and I’m not going to let you forget it!” But the volume on that voice has been turned down for now. It’s a true testament to the power of love and I can honestly say I’ve never felt more loved. It’s a very humbling feeling.

More big changes

As some of you may or may not know, I have worked basically two full time jobs for the last 5 years. In January of 2006 I started a full-time position as an Art Director with a local events production house. I had the pleasure of actually using my two degrees (BFA and MFA in Art and Technology), which was something I never thought I’d get lucky enough to actually use, as jobs in fine art are pretty hard to find. This niche position provided me with an outlet for both my love of sculpture and my love of photographic composition. As a stage designer, I would design small and large scale stages for events and concerts all over the world. A few times a year, I would fly to the larger shows and photograph the event for our company’s marketing department. The thrill of walking into an arena and seeing what has been in my brain for months actually sitting in front of me is a feeling that never got old. And being able to do that is a true testament to the talented people I was able to work with. Below are a few of my favorite sets I’ve designed and photographed in the last couple of years.


August 28th was my last day as an Art Director for this company and I have now set out to focus solely on my family and photography business. It’s a little bittersweet, but our decision to not put our future son into daycare made this change extremely easy. And I couldn’t be happier! I’m going to be able to do the things I’ve wanted to do but never had the time to, like blog on the regular! I have big plans of kicking ass and taking some names both personally and professionally. If there’s one thing I’m most thankful for from our child having this setback, it was the gift of certainty that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. #noregrets.

All of the women at the production company gave me a royal send-off including a surprise baby shower and a cake as big as my torso. I’m not going to lie, the baby shower was so surreal. Scott and I hadn’t bought anything for the baby yet. I think a little of that is because it gives me a little anxiety…ok a lot of anxiety. I didn’t want to prepare everything and then have something truly bad happen. As unlikely as that is to happen, it’s the way my brain had processed our situation until that point. The shower made it all feel so real. I have to say, the outpouring of love was simply so special to me and I could never fully express how much it all meant to us. I had to take two car-loads home, and when Scott saw it all, he simply shook his head in disbelief much in the same way I did. We both stood in shock looking at the gifts, then at each other, then making brief comments about how real it was all becoming. And seeing the little clothes switched my focus from the bad,  to the amazingly awesome fact that we are going to have a little guy fill them out very soon.

It’s Getting Real

In mid-August, we had an ultrasound, and the tech said she was going to do a 3D version of it for us. I wasn’t going to do one, because I always thought the images looked like they came straight out of a horror movie, but I was pretty excited when she said she was going to do it. For about a day, I couldn’t get over how creepy it looked, but when I see it now, I have to say, I’m so in love. His cheeks and nose are so cute and seeing them is pretty incredible.


In late August, Scott and I toured Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH. It was a whirlwind of emotion, and I held it together until I got to the NICU portion of the tour. Seeing all the babies hooked up to all of the machines struck a chord with me and I had to excuse myself for a couple of minutes. All of the emotions I’d been handling so well came rushing back to me full-force and I had a mini-cry-fest there in the hallway. There’s literally nothing really good about this situation, however, there are immeasurable silver linings, and I will choose to focus on those. The facility at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is breathtakingly gorgeous. There is lots of light and wide, bright and happy non-claustrophobic hallways (perfect for crying in lol). The machines still look intimidating and overwhelming, but their visual effect is made more bearable by the comforting and beautiful surroundings.

We were lucky enough to meet with one of the heart surgeons that day. He was not only kind, patient and smart as hell, but he was refreshingly down-to-earth and a little poetic, which I was not expecting. He compared having Tetralogy of Fallot to walking up a hill of sand. You can still walk up the hill, however you might slip a little along the way. He then said that we all have our hill to climb, whether it’s made of sand or lined with stairs. Deep, right?

During the consult, I felt like my eyes had been opened a little bit more, and the road will be a little bit harder than I was telling myself prior to the meeting. I suppose everything sounds harder before you go through it. I was talking to my father after the visit, and he said something that I think a lot of people have trouble naming when they know they are going to be faced with adversity. He told me that this will all become my new normal, and that it’s really scary right now because It’s all so new and different.

The long and short of the visit was that they are not going to be able to develop a definitive treatment plan for our little man until after he is born. For me, that is the main source of my anxiety. I constantly tell myself “we don’t know how bad it is yet.” I should probably be telling myself, “this could all go a lot better than you think it will”, and try to focus on a best-case scenario. Another piece of the puzzle that has me a little freaked out is he will be transported to another hospital within the first couple hours of his life. It could be 1-4 days before I actually get to see him for any length of time. Luckily Scott will be with him that whole time and will send me plenty of photos and videos. I think after being away from my newborn and not being able to see him, I might over-compensate and never let him go once I’m able to hold him. I’m looking forward to having that option.

After touring the hospital, I found myself going back to the internet and combing through blogs and posts about TOF. It truly doesn’t matter how many success stories I read about, they all weigh heavily on my heart. I need to stop.


It’s been just over one week since our hospital visit. This week is my first week as a full-time wedding photographer (even though I’ve considered myself one for the last 5 years). Luckily my schedule is filled up right until we have lil’ nug, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. We have also worked a little each night on starting to put the nursery together and finishing the downstairs of our home. I’m going to post pictures of it when we get it a little more finished.

In the next few weeks, we will be lucky enough to have a local baby shower and one in Atlanta as well. I’m so excited to just have a few days with family and friends! Life is truly a roller coaster ride with its dips and turns. I know we’re currently going up another hill we’re going to have to face, but it’s going to be an amazing journey! How’s that for an optimistic blog ending?

XO Jess



Tetralogy of Fallot Story

Tetralogy of Fallot: A Personal Journey Pt.1

So I’m not sure I’ve ever posted a truly personal blog on here. I don’t often feel compelled to write about myself, and I’m convinced that not many people would really care if I did write personal blogs. Sometimes I find them a little self-indulgent. The last few weeks, however, have proven to be pretty difficult in my personal life, and I decided I might as well share my journey in the off chance someone else is going through something similar and would find comfort in knowing that they’re not alone. I know I scour blogs, comment boards and threads just to know that I’m not.

This year my husband Scott and I have had a lot of changes in our life. He started working full time after being in graduate school for a bazillion, I mean three years. Shortly after, we found out that we were pregnant with our first child! When we found out, I didn’t really have the typical movie-ish reaction where it’s happy tears and celebrations. I started crying all right- and saying, what did we dooooo??? I’m way too selfish for this!!! After the initial shock wore off, it all became a lot more exciting.

A month later, we moved into our dream house, and we felt like we were on top of the world. We now totally live on ‘Leave-it-to-Beaver’ street. Every time I pull into our neighborhood, I feel like a bluebird could come sit on my shoulder and start singing to me. The moving process was a lot more stressful than I ever thought it would be. I seriously underestimated how much crap we accumulated, but in the back of my mind, I told myself how lucky I was for the house distraction while I was pregnant. Anxiety has been one of my weak points since I was little. It was nice to have a focus on something other than the millions of things that could go wrong with my pregnancy.

All was good until our 20 week ultrasound. The doctor came in and told us there was something wrong with our baby’s heart. If you have problems with anxiety, this news will probably hit you ten fold as strong as it would a normal person. I remember the world feeling like I was in a dream- as if people were there talking to me, but I wasn’t there. That feeling actually lasted for about a month straight, and I still go in-and-out of it sometimes. Tetralogy of Fallot was the diagnosis, and that is not one, but four congenital heart disorders that all occur simultaneously. The doctor then went on to explain that this could be caused by a chromosomal disorder called DiGeorge’s Syndrome, that would result in a lifetime worth of specialists and teams of people that would need to work with our child. It can include walking, talking, feeding problems, and among other things, major developmental issues and mental retardation. And that’s pretty much all I heard the doctor say- Mental Retardation. To find out the extent of the baby’s troubles, we decided to do an amino, which was no walk in the park but completely worth it.

Seven days passed. They were brutal, not knowing what the future had in store for us. The feeling of loss before you even get to experience the joy. A lot of really ugly thoughts passed through my mind that week. Having this diagnosis is pretty rare even though some people will tell you it’s common. I say the Flu is common. This is not. This is like winning the shittiest lottery.

On the seventh day, we received the phone call that made the world start spinning again- No DiGeorge’s Syndrome! I promised myself that if I received that phone call, I would go back to being the happy expectant mom-to-be. And I did, for about three days.

All of the feelings and fears started to simmer to the surface again. If our baby has Tetralogy, what else will he have? What did I do to cause the baby to have this? (The doctors say it’s just random and they don’t know what causes it in many cases, but you start to second guess everyone. Surely there is something that causes this). Was I eating enough good, organic food? I ate a lot of take-out junk my first trimester because of the move and lack of access to a kitchen. Will this give him autism? I convinced myself that I could “heal” our baby by eating more eggs, cutting out wheat, and eating fresh fruit and dark chocolate everyday. The rational part of my brain did a major leap off a tall cliff, and all of my fears and emotions made me feel like I was in a steep spiral downward, caught swimming upstream in the flushing of life’s toilet.

Our last ultrasound was on Tuesday, four days ago. I went into it praying that baby would have miraculously healed and the eggs I have been eating had worked. Of course, he (yes, it’s a boy!) still has his heart problems, and of course it’s ridiculous to think that eating eggs would help that…I’m not even sure where I got that idea. I think I made it up. It sounded promising. I have to mentally try to keep re-aligning my brain with the facts: The survival rates of having this are insanely great. He will definitely need one surgery, open-heart, possibly more. We are lucky this is a condition that will allow him to have a full and healthy life when fixed. He doesn’t have anything else wrong with him until diagnosed, so to put energy into that fear is worthless. When I do that worthless worrying, Scott tells me I’m in my rocking chair- I’m doing a lot of work and not going anywhere. It always makes me laugh. Well, more like snicker begrudgingly because I know he’s right.

We have three more months to go, and I can honestly say that the last few months have changed my life more than I ever thought was possible. I feel like I’ve aged about 5 years both mentally and physically. It’s been a good change, too. It’s been really rough sometimes, but I feel a lot stronger from it. I’m excited to meet our little man, and document his spectacular life. It will be hard not to spoil him given how lucky we will feel each and everyday he is with us.

In our ultrasound earlier this week, we were given the best gift ever! A small video of him sucking his thumb. His little nose is too cute and seeing it It made all the fears melt away… for this week at least.

I will continue to update this journal of his early life as we go through this experience. We are so thankful we found out early so that we’ve had time to process what will be happening as we move forward into the unknown. My wish is that in two years, I’ll look back on these posts and find comfort in knowing that all turned out well, and that our child will be able to experience a life filled with joy and love. I have a new appreciation for any parents who have gone through something happening to your child. You are the bravest people in the world!

Thank you so much to my closest friends and all the people, doctors and nurses who have been more than amazing! An even bigger thank you to Scott, who is the only person I’d want to go through something like this with.

XO Jess