The day following Walter’s diagnosis Dan and I both got ready for work and put on a strong smile for our little warrior. We weren’t sure whether we should be happy or sad: happy that we had a diagnosis or sad at what that diagnosis was. Going into work we each knew we would face questions from concerned friends and co-workers, as our absences had not gone unnoticed. We hadn’t yet articulated exactly how to respond, and the words felt like jagged wounds so fresh on our lips. We both mourned the bliss we had for my pregnancy and for Walter just a day before, and mourned the routine, happy, and simple expectations we had for his birth. Still, we are not in the business of sorrow, pity, or remorse, and armed ourselves with the facts we had, an upright chin, and the confident hope we have for the months to come, and headed off.
That morning, around 9:30 am, I received a call from the head nurse on the DC Children’s Fetal Heart Team. She spoke with me about what we had learned the night before, and indicated that our perinatologst and the head doctor of the Fetal Heart Department felt it was urgent I be seen as soon a possible. As the summer months are upon us, doctors begin to take vacation, and the nurse advised that all of the fetal cardiologist’s appointments were booked for the next two weeks, and after that she would be on vacation for another week. The nurse then told me that our cardiologist was off today, but would come in to meet with us if I can get to DC Children’s Hospital as soon as possible. With a hop, skip, and a leap, I was out of the office and on my way to DC for Walter’s echocardiogram and a visit with the Fetal Heart Team.
After navigating my way through the busy DC streets and then the enormous Children’s Hospital, itself, I arrived on the third floor to the Fetal Cardiology Unit. They were expecting me – with paperwork printed, and most information already updated, I was whisked in to one of the “Echo” rooms, where a specialized sonographer took over 200 ultrasound images of Walter’s heart, measured direction and rate of blood flow, captured visual movements, and listened to his strong cheerful heartbeat. I was then taken into a comfortable conference-like room with big windows and a long table, where I would meet our team.
Shortly, the head of the department arrived (a fetal cardiologist), along with the fetal thoracic surgeon, head nurse, and social worker/advocate. They were warm, inviting, knowledgeable, and provided us with the best news and answers we could ask for. Walter’s diagnosis for Tetralogy of Fallot was confirmed (independently from the perinatoligist’s) and she, like our perinatoligist, advised that in her professional opinion, she did not believe that our little boy has any kind of chromosomal defect. Our doctor began by asking if we knew our baby’s gender, and if we had a name. I told her yes, and that his name is Walter. For the rest of the visit, our team referred to our sweet little boy as Walter (and his nickname, Wally). In that they affirmed his humanity, and his survival – it made every bit of difference. In fact, she began our meeting with four simple, remarkable, Godly, lifting words: “We can fix it.”
From there, our team answered many of my questions and then some. They are summarized in my next post for easy reference.
(Also many people have asked me what my – or Wally’s – bump looks like about now. Below is a photo Dan took of me starting out week 21).