Mary and Stephen Young watched the hours slowly tick by as their one-month-old son Robert underwent open heart surgery in the operating room at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Only hours after Robert was born, his care team discovered a murmur and Robert was diagnosed with Tetralogy of the Fallot (TOF) a heart defect. Robert’s care team advised the Youngs to monitor Robert, to keep him calm and to not overexert himself by crying.
"Our goal was to make it to three months before surgery," said Mary. "He turned a month old and he received echocardiogram at ACH. They looked at him and knew he needed surgery immediately."
For eight hours, the cardiology team worked to repair Robert’s heart and updated the family every 60 minutes. "We had a private area to wait with our family," said Mary.
"We had pastoral care who prayed with us and social workers who told us where we were going to sleep that night. For as long and as terrible as that day was it was nice to have distractions and their support."
After hours of hoping, praying and waiting, Mary and Stephen were able to see their tiny son. "We were prepared for what Robert would look like post-operation," said Mary.
"But even with tubes coming out of him, the first thing I noticed was his pink lips." For the first time, Robert’s body was receiving enough oxygen to give him a healthy, pink glow.
Following Robert’s operation, he experienced setbacks for a few days before making a strong, full recovery. "The round-the-clock care of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit was fantastic," said Stephen. "We were very fortunate that one of his nurses was a close friend of ours. Knowing people there from the community that you are friends with makes a big difference."
Before going home, Mary and Stephen attended a CPR class at ACH and the Child Life and Education team taught them a special technique to massage baby Robert after the operation.
"I felt so comfortable leaving the hospital knowing how to take care of his special heart," said Mary.
Robert is now six-years-old and in Kindergarten. He loves lunch and playing with his friends at recess. Robert understands he has a special heart but nothing slows him down. This year, Robert ran a triathlon, a 5K on Thanksgiving Day, water skied this summer and was cleared by his care team to play soccer.
"With Robert, we enjoy each day and wait to see what his test results will be," said Stephen. "We know he’ll need a valve replaced in the future." The Young family are grateful for a strong, happy little boy and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital team who saved his life.