Photo: (left to right) Quinn, Nash and Cohen

Cohen and Nash’s story

The day after Cohen was born, his parents Angela and Emery were spending time bonding with their beautiful little boy. After a routine check, their midwife noticed that Cohen was working unusually hard during nursing and his oxygen saturation was off, so they got him examined at their local hospital in Kamloops. It was there that they received the news no parent wants to hear: “There’s something wrong with your baby’s heart.”

Cohen and Angela were immediately airlifted to BC Children’s Hospital and whisked away to the pediatric intensive care unit. Tests revealed that Cohen had been born with critical congenital heart defects, and the two main arteries connected to his heart were switched.

The tiny newborn was fighting hard to survive, but with his oxygen saturation dropping more and more each day it became harder for him to breathe and he started to turn blue. He underwent a 4.5-hour surgery, and to Angela’s and Emery’s relief the medical team told them the surgery had been a success. Over two weeks later they were able to return home to Kamloops.

While they were pregnant with their next child, Nash, Angela felt signs that something wasn’t quite right. Ultrasounds confirmed that she needed specialized clinical care, and later tests diagnosed Angela with polyhydramnios, an excessive buildup of amniotic fluid.

Nash was fighting battles since day one. He was born with a condition called VACTERL association, which included birth defects that affected his heart, kidney, spine and other parts of his body. The newborn stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit for the next 10 weeks and underwent three major surgeries, as well as numerous other procedures.

When Nash was 15 months old, he had open heart surgery to repair a hole in his heart. The surgery went well, and the family was able to come back home a couple of weeks later.

A year later, both Cohen and Nash are doing well. Nash is a vibrant toddler who is full of life and smiles, and Cohen is a smart, charismatic and energetic 5-year-old. Both boys love to wrestle and play sports with their older brother, Quinn. Cohen’s and Nash’s heart journeys will be life-long, and they will be supported by cardiology specialists at BC Children’s for years to come.

“Life with two children diagnosed with congenital heart disease has been overwhelming and stressful,” Angela said. “Luckily, we’ve been able to see the silver lining to our journey. We have a greater appreciation for life and our outlook and priorities have shifted, reminding us to slow down and appreciate the ‘little things’ a lot more.”

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