Leah Jeanelle’s Story
BACKGROUND STORY: During a routine 16-week prenatal appointment, a deathly slow heartbeat was discovered (70 bpm). We were immediately sent to Des Moines Mercy where we met with Dr. Joseph Hwang and team from the Perinatal Center of Iowa. He confirmed a very serious heart defect. We were completely overwhelmed and devastated. Three weeks later we had our first appointment with Dr. Thomas Becker of Pediatric Cardiology. 9 defects. Such severe anomalies that we instantly became a complicated case. She was safest in my womb which would keep her alive into later pregnancy but not much further if her heart rate stayed so critically low. If she did survive the pregnancy, the chances of her successfully transitioning into life with breath was minimal. Because of her structural and venous defects, surgical repair was complex and risky. Confused, scared, cheated, angry, hopeless. We battled for days in a scary place where God seemed so far away. But He found us again and forced us to talk, to pray, to surrender. Our family, friends, and church reached us through unconditional and amazing support that lifted us to a place of balanced faith and realism. She was our daughter and we were blessed just to carry her in pregnancy. She was living with us, moving within my womb. She deserved God's path, too. Our summer went on as normal as could be. Joe (4) and Tommy (2) were full of active curiosity and innocently demanded our full attention. We made it through several more appointments, met with a hospice team and bereavement counselors, and continued to pray along with the hundreds of others who included us in their daily prayers. We just asked God for a chance to meet her. Hold her. Keep her comfortable until He would choose to take her home. Of course we would fight, but that's all we asked. And then July 25 happened. The doctors expected the left side of her heart (specifically the left ventricle...the strongest, most important pumping chamber) to weaken to a point where it would essentially not function (hypoplastic left heart syndrome). Rather her heartbeat was up (from a consistently low 70 up to a safe 130 bpm) and the left side of her heart was strong! Her dialated corornary sinus had esentially moved and allowed her heart to grow! Completely unexpected! Her growth is right on schedule and the rest of her body is developing perfectly! Leah still suffers severe heart complications, but the prognosis is full of hope. So now we will deliver her and after a BT shunt installation (open heart surgery) and a few short weeks in the Mercy PICU, we will bring her home! Bring her home and grow our little fighter so she can undergo a major repair surgery sometime in the early months of life. But a repair that has a high success rate and a chance for a long, normal life. We are on our knees and offer our thankful hearts to the Lord!