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Living life to the fullest after three heart surgeries

Judah's story

In 2013, Kristin and Mike was thrilled to find out they were going to have another son. But while at a routine ultrasound, they were told there was a problem with their unborn baby’s heart. After further tests, they were crushed to learn their baby had double inlet left ventricle, a rare and serious condition where problems with the heart’s right ventricle cause lifelong problems.

“We were told he would need to have open-heart surgery within the first week of his life, another surgery around six months, and another at three or four years of age. Our heads were spinning.” — Kristin, Judah's mom

Three weeks before Judah was born, Kristin, Mike and their two-and-a-half-year-old son Liam relocated from their home in Nanaimo to Vancouver. When Judah was born, nurses placed him on Kristin’s chest. “It was so hard to give him over to the nurses to take him to the intensive care unit,” she recalled.

Just 36 hours after Judah’s delivery, he went into his first surgery at BC Children’s Hospital—the Norwood procedure. Within six days, he was discharged, and his recovery continued rapidly. In a month, he was off his feeding tube and had surpassed his birthweight.

Judah’s journey was far from over. At four months, it was time for his second surgery, the Glenn procedure. Again, Judah rebounded quickly. In the coming months he was full of life and determined to keep up with his big brother. People were often surprised to find out he had a heart condition because he was so active and vibrant.

But as years passed, Judah’s activity started to slow, and strangers on the playground would ask if he was okay as he was constantly out of breath and turned blue when he exerted himself. At age four, it was time for Judah’s third surgery, the Fontan procedure, which was recently performed at BC Children’s Hospital.

“Emotionally, this was the most difficult surgery,” said Kristin. “Both the boys were much more aware of what was going on. I can still clearly see Judah getting rolled away for surgery, clinging to his bear and wiping away tears as the nurse tried to cheer him up by talking to him about Paw Patrol.”

The procedure was a success, but it took Judah time to feel better emotionally.

“For the first few days the sparkle had left Judah’s eyes. On day four it was time for him to walk. It was difficult but the nurses assured us it was like medicine. Just hours after his first walk he was talking again, asking to eat and even smiling. From that day on he’s just gotten better and better every day.”

Recently, after a cardiology appointment on Vancouver Island, when Judah was leaving the hospital he looked over at his mum and said “Let’s run!”—something he would never have done before his surgery.

“When we got back to the car, Judah said, ‘They sure did power up my heart mom.’ It’s been amazing to see him gain confidence in his abilities as he continues to thrive and heal. It brings tears to my eyes.”

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