Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Waiting for Gabriel
The beginning of a new year! We have big hopes for the little guy Beth is carrying around. This crazy ride really started last January; Beth decided to return to work as an elementary school teacher jumping through all the hoops to update her resume and complete the latest battery of tests required by the state. She submitted applications, interviewed and was offered a 2nd grade position when we discovered she was pregnant. That was a big monkey wrench thrown into the Swope familia werks but we tried to take it in as positive a stride as possible. You see our original plan was for Beth to remain home until Isabella was in school full time as a 1st grader. In the interim our son Powell was born, we didn't quite make it until he was in 1st, but he was close (final year of preschool). I applied for and was accepted to grad school at BSU. So when we discovered that Beth was gestating another Swopling we tried to view it as a positive. Maybe this was a sign that she wasn't due to return to work just yet (although as Beth has said. "It would have been a much simpler message if I had just not been offered a job.") So we viewed it in the light that her staying home a few more years would ease family scheduling a bit. In August, Bella started the 3rd grade, Powell returned to preschool and I began the MFA program in visual art. Life was crazy busy and we were still somewhat dreading adding an infant to this mix but had finally resigned ourselves to the inevitability of Beth's growing abdomen. In September we received a 2x4 smack in the face of "be grateful cause things can get worse." After the 5 month ultra sound we discovered that not only were we having a boy but also that "He has a problem with his heart, it doesn't look right and you'll need to see a pediatric cardiologist." That's an emotional IED!! A week later the pediatric cardiologist said it looked like there was something going on with the baby's heart but he was not getting good imagery and he wanted to see us back in a couple of weeks. We hoped and prayed the problem was the imagery, we so wanted to believe everyone was in error. Two weeks later though we discovered our boy had half a heart: the diagnosis was hypoplastic left heart syndrome or HLHS a rare congenital condition in which the left ventricle is absent or significantly underdeveloped. The fix is a series of 3 operations to basically re-plumb the heart so the right ventricle will do the work of both. These procedures take place; a few days after birth, at 4 months and at 3-4 years. The procedures are becoming more commonplace but operating on a neo-nate's heart is still a high risk intervention. The pediatric cardiologist also said it looked like an atrial septal defect was in process which would decrease lung development in utero. So... heart and lung problems. We were pretty despondent after that visit. The Dr was great though and talked with us at length regarding options... all two of them. The options were either to pursue the interventions at an out of state hospital or deliver in Boise and receive comfort care and allow the baby to die. This is the kind of decision making neither of us thought we would ever be faced with, determining whether our child should possibly live- due to severe interventions or die. I asked the Dr what direction most people took and was surprised that most people elected to remain in Boise and provide comfort care. I didn't understand at first until I thought more about it and realized most people don't have the option to even consider making that decision. Most people cannot take months off of work and travel and live out of state. While I might be a financial moron I am fortunate enough to support my family as a Boise firefighter which affords us options not available in most other careers. We had a lot to think about.