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Charles “Charlie” Christopher Dunaway was born on Dec. 6, 2017, at 3:43 a.m. at Ochsner Baptist Medical Center in New Orleans, La. Charlie weighed in at 5-pounds and 3-ounces and was 18.3 inches long. He is named in honor of his late grandfather, Charles “Chiggy” Rhodes, who passed away prior to my wife, Aimee’s, birth in 1976.
Charlie was diagnosed with a pair of congenital heart defects in-utero, including a rare defect called truncus arteriosus and a ventricular septal defect. The first occurs when the two large arteries leaving the heart (the aorta and pulmonary arteries) are combined into one large vessel. The latter is simply a hole in the ventricular septum, or the muscle wall separating the heart’s pumping chambers.
The good news is both of these defects are correctable, but open-heart surgery was necessary. Both issues were addressed in the same operation.
Charlie began his journey in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Ochsner Baptist Hospital before he was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Ochsner Medical Center’s main campus. Charlie stayed there for two days before he was transported back to Ochsner Baptist, where he was to remain until he gained exactly 1 pound.
However, two days later Charlie faced a minor setback with his heart function and was immediately transported to the Ochsner Medical Center Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.
On Dec. 21, our doctor advised us to transfer to a different facility for treatment, as Ochsner wasn’t equipped with the necessary expertise at the time. We quickly selected Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston because of their top-ranked congenital heart surgery program and expertise in treating Charlie’s conditions. We also had a good support system with several friends and family members in the area. Our lives were effectively turned upside down, but this was a road we had to travel. There were no alternatives.
Later that same day, the Kangaroo Crew team from Texas Children’s flew from Houston to New Orleans to collect Charlie. Let me say, it was very emotional for us to watch the son we had barely come to know wheeled out of our hospital room. Charlie and the team landed in Houston a few hours later. The next 24 hours were a whirlwind. We put our lives on hold and drove to Houston.
We chronicled our entire 180-day odyssey with Charlie in Houston on CaringBridge. We invite you to read Charlie's amazing story and journey for a second chance in life.