It is because of the doctors, nurses and staff at Rush that our son, Tanner, is alive.
Our story begins on Sept. 24, 2009. We scheduled our 20-week ultrasound with the doctors at Women’s Health Consultants based on a recommendation. It was that day that our son was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which meant that the lower left chamber of Tanner’s heart had never formed.
We were devastated, but we were quickly escorted upstairs to the seventh floor to meet Dr. Sawsan Awad in the Rush Center for Congenital and Structural Heart Disease. She took the time to explain the heart defect and its implications. We learned of the three surgeries Tanner would require and reassurance that we were in good hands. We went home exhausted, worried, sad, but optimistic our son would be fine in the hands of the Rush doctors.
Over the course of the next few months, we had several appointments for ultrasounds, echocardiograms and checkups. We were kept well informed on Tanner’s progress and our options. Our questions were encouraged and welcomed, and we were thankful for the open lines of communication we experienced.
On Nov. 24, 2009 we had our team meeting with all of the doctors, nurses and specialists who would be part of Tanner’s care. We attended, along with our mothers, and we were offered more information specific to Tanner, given options of treatment, timelines of Tanner’s birth and surgeries, and then had a chance to ask questions. This meeting was a pivotal point for us. We met Dr. Anastasios Polimenakos, our cardiac surgeon, who turned out to be one of our son’s heroes. We were offered every outcome, including the best and worst scenarios. It was an exhausting day, but we walked out armed with the information we needed to give our son a fighting chance.
Tanner was born on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010. Tanner weighed 9 pounds, 2 ounces and was doing well at birth. The cardiac team took him immediately to the cath lab and assessed his condition. We were able to see him that night in the PICU.
On February 2, 2010 Tanner had his first surgery. We were nervous, but confident in our team of surgeons that they would do everything they needed to do to make sure Tanner was safe. Tanner’s recovery was not without bumps in the road; but he thrived, thanks to the dedication, care and love he received from everyone who cared for him during his stay. He ate his first bottle on Feb. 16 and grew stronger every day after that. We brought our little man home on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Our homecoming was emotional, and we will never forget it.
Over the next few months, Tanner had a couple of hospital stays. Finally, on July 2, 2010, he was ready to face his second open-heart surgery. Tanner’s recovery after the second surgery was remarkable and best summed up with this story:
As Kevin, Tanner’s nurse came in to take his morning report on July 3 he peered into Tanner’s room and said to the overnight nurse “When is his surgery?” Tanner had his surgery the previous morning, but had recovered so well, no one could believe he had just had his procedure.
We came home five days after Tanner’s second open-heart surgery. We were amazed.
Love and attention
There is something to be said about a staff that cares so deeply for their patients. We feel that Tanner’s extended family includes the doctors, nurses and staff in the PICU at Rush. They care for Tanner as if he is their own child. He receives love, care, compassion and unwavering attention when he is there. Even if he just needs to be cuddled with as we run to grab a bite to eat or get a little fresh air, we know that the nurses and doctors will pick him up and give him the love and attention he needs without a second thought. It takes a special person to do that and the PICU at Rush is filled with people who do that every single day.
We fully believe that our son would not be with us today without the care that he receives at Rush. Today we have a beautiful, active, happy 13-month-old little boy who is crawling and trying to walk. He continues to amaze us with his resilience. He has a wonderful sense of humor and loves to smile. In 13 short months, he has fought harder to be alive than many of us ever will. Rush made all of this possible. We await his next surgery, which should be this July, and we know his future is bright thanks to Rush.