Cheryl Giampa and Clint Joy would like July 14, 2015, struck from the calendar. It’s the day they almost lost their youngest child, Huck.
Huck was born just 10 days earlier, nine days premature. During the second trimester of her pregnancy, doctors told Cheryl and Clint that their child would have a congenital heart defect. Cheryl says she knew something was wrong from the moment she found out she was expecting.
“There’s something to be said about a mother’s intuition,” says Cheryl. “My intuition was so strong, I refused to announce our pregnancy until after our 20-week ultrasound.”
Huck's condition is known as transposition of the great arteries. The rare but serious defect occurs when the two main arteries leaving the heart – the aorta and the pulmonary artery – are reversed, changing the way blood circulates through the body. Blood normally pumps from the right side of the heart through the pulmonary artery to the lungs to receive oxygen. The blood then flows into the left side, through the aorta and back into the body. When those vital cardiac vessels are swapped, oxygen-poor blood pumps into the body while oxygen-rich blood recirculates back into the lungs – a situation that can be fatal.
“Finding out that our baby’s survival was solely dependent on open-heart surgery was devastating and terrifying,” recalls Cheryl.
Huck’s condition proved to be more complicated than his doctors first realized. In the first 10 days of his life, he underwent an arterial switch and an emergency operation to inflate a collapsed lung.
On the morning of July 14, Huck’s face ballooned and turned purple minutes after his breathing tube was removed. He had a blood clot in his superior vena cava – the main vein that draws blood from his head. Once again, the infant needed emergency surgery. About an hour and a half into the procedure, he began to bleed uncontrollably, and his doctors told his parents to prepare for the worst. Thankfully, Huck survived.
Huck is now just under a year old, and Cheryl and Clint say their boy already seems to have a great appreciation of life. While the majority of his health issues are behind him, he must visit the Children’s Heart Centre at BC Children’s Hospital every month. There, at least, his parents know he will be in good hands.
“The nurses, doctors and support staff far exceeded our expectations of excellence. Their dedication and commitment to their jobs was tremendous and we could not have asked for better care,” says Cheryl.
“It became evident that [Huck’s] survival was so heavily dependent on the generous donations that allow the hospital to recruit the best staff and operate at a world-class level. We will forever be grateful to the amazing staff at BC Children's Hospital and all the generous donors.”