Feb 08, 2013 Farah Jadran Uncategorized
At the 22nd week of Judy Walsh’s pregnancy, everything changed.
“I never dreamed there would be a problem,” Judy said. Even so, after the routine sonogram, the hospital technician told her there was something wrong.
Now, Judy and her husband, Joe, would be seeing a pediatric cardiologist — a type of doctor they didn’t even know existed.
While there was a discussion of possibilities such as their baby girl having Down syndrome or hole in her heart.
Upstate Medical University’s Dr. Frank Smith, a pediatric cardiologist, informed the couple that Maggie would be born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This is a congenital heart defect and it means Maggie’s left ventricle would be underdeveloped.
In other words, she would be born with half of a heart.
Both Judy and Joe were grateful for being informed about Maggie’s condition, especially because many generations of parents did not have the luxury of telling sonograms or prenatal testing.
Equipped with knowledge, the choice was made — Maggie would undergo three stages of surgery.
Just a few short days after Maggie was born, she was in surgery. While she would begin a fight for her life, her big sister Abigail, only 2 years old at the time, would be joining the fight along with their parents.
“You learn a lot,” Joe said. “It changes your perspective.”
Judy said that family and friends became a great support, but also their church and the surrounding community. Bellvue Heights Nursery School in Syracuse hosted “Maggie’s Carnival” to raise funds for Maggie’s medical costs.
“People we didn’t even know came,” Joe said.
At nine months, Maggie underwent her second procedure, and then she was all of 5 years old for her third procedure. “She was just starting to understand all of this,” Judy said. “But it’s just the way it’s always been…she has a special heart.”
When sitting in the kitchen of the Walsh home in Fairmount, Maggie came over to the table to whisper to her mother the things she remembers most about her last surgery and the things she’s realizing about her heart, altogether.
While Maggie is well aware of the scar on her chest from her incision, and prefers to keep it covered, her parents said the “emotional scars” are present for big sister Abigail.
Abigail embraced her sister as a photographer took their picture. She looked at her sincerity and true “big sister love” as she missed slumber parties so to be at her sister’s side at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester.
Were there any good parts about all of this?
“I liked wearing my pajamas,” Maggie said.
After surgery, her gown would itch and she didn’t want anything more than to change into pajamas, Judy said.
Plus, Abigail realized her little sister Maggie was very good the game Memory, there were many matches played in the hospital game room.
Heart healthy family
The Walsh family is grateful for each day they have together.
As they’re fully aware that Maggie will require another procedure within the next 15 to 20 years, they’re also aware of how important it is to lead heart healthy lives together.
“We know we all have to stay more physically active and eat healthier,” Judy said. “It’s a part of our lives.”
Farah F. Jadran is the associate editor for Syracuse Parent Magazine, a publication of Eagle Newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org