It was January 11, 2017 at 4:00 am. “Hmm…” said the Pediatrician listening to my newborn daughter’s heartbeat. “It’s probably nothing, but it sounds like she may have a slight heart murmur. I’m going to recommend some tests.” As I said, it was 4:00 am, a day and a half after I delivered a 9 lb. 3 oz., chubby cheeked, beautiful baby girl. I was irritated. I wanted nothing more than to sleep, since I’d just gotten my baby to sleep. Who did this doctor think she was this doctor telling me I need to get my baby dressed and ready for tests?
Almost instantly, a nurse came in, swaddled Cam, and wheeled her out of my room. She was gone nearly all day. To be honest, I didn’t think much of it. I napped. Watched cable TV. Enjoyed hospital room service (with surprisingly delicious food!), and napped some more. It was like a mini vacation, and I probably should have been more worried… but I was just so tired, that I wasn’t.
At around 5:00 pm, the nurses brought Camden back. They informed me that before the end of the night, a Cardiologist or our Pediatrician would be in to discuss results. “OK.” I said, not thinking much of it. I was born with a heart murmur, and have been fine my whole life. This wasn’t any different. But then…
A nurse came in the room. Panicked. I could tell that she wanted to tell me what was going on, but couldn’t. Whether because she didn’t know the whole story, or just couldn’t explain it, she just said something is wrong. “Really wrong… If the baby turns blue or stops breathing just hit the red button next to your bed.” And then she left!
WHAT?! What?!?! I freaked out, and called Chandler crying. I told him what happened and he panicked… yelling at me to find someone to talk to, and threatened “to come down there if someone doesn’t tell us exactly what was going on!” (You don’t want angry Chandler coming down anywhere… ever!) So I pushed the red button next to my bed. What felt like one hundred times. But the nurse couldn’t give me answers. No one could, until the next morning.
We learned that my tiny baby was born with several heart defects, and would require open heart surgery, sooner rather than later. We learned that without this extremely invasive surgery, she wouldn’t live to see two. Her diagnosis was Tetralogy of Fallot, with three to four other defects that would also need repair. “TET babies” or “blue babies” have four characteristic heart defects. One of which, a damaged Pulmonary Valve, results in the patient needing open heart surgery every two to five years, for the rest of their life. These patients aren’t usually able to run, or exercise, or play sports, or even have babies, and they don’t usually live long, full lives.
This was huge. This was so scary. Of course we were devastated, but ultimately, we had faith that everything would turn out alright. We relied on Heavenly Father- more during that time than at any other in our lives. We cried. A lot. We prayed. Hard. We felt the prayers of others. HARDER. We felt ministering angels surround every aspect of our lives. We were grateful for the hundreds of friends and family members who donated blood – especially the six that donated directly to Camden. We were so grateful for all of the other’s who donated because they realized there was (and is) such a need.
Just before she turned three months old, Camden had her surgery. I felt the need to document EVERYTHING. It was my outlet. My outlet from fear. From stress. From worry. From everything. I just needed to document her tiny story. Document using the correct medical terminology that I hadn’t used since college. Document my feelings. Document the many miracles we experienced. Document our life within the hospital walls, and document Baby Sister’s surgery, her recovery, her strength and her resilience. So I picked up my camera for the first time in a LONG time.
I took photos and posted them on Facebook with the events from what seemed like each passing hour. The white floors, white walls and soft sunlight streaming through the singular window made such a dark time seem so bright and peaceful. The sunshine and light in the room gave us hope, and allowed us to celebrate each milestone! Like poop. Did you know that poop could ever be such a magnificent milestone?!
Within a day or two, I started to get texts and messages asking if I hired a professional photographer to follow us around the hospital. Comments about what a great idea it was to hire a professional! People were SHOCKED when I told them I was the photographer. When I said, “I used to take photos,” they wondered why I stopped. They started asking me to take their family photos!
Baby Sister kicked Tetralogy of Fallot in the bum! She sailed through her recovery like a champ. She’s been cleared by her team of cardiologists, and is now two and half, and stronger than ever! She’s brave and fearless, and HUGE…errr, I mean “sturdy!” (you never call a girl huge ????)! You’d never know she was a sick little baby, aside from the barley visible zipper scar that runs almost from neck to navel. We know it’s only because of the grace of God, and the strength of our little girl.
Two years ago today was her surgery. Since then, I’ve continued to pick up my camera. I’ve laboriously studied and practiced, grown and learned how to create those same dreamy, hope filled photos for other families, and in other locations! And that’s how Morgan Dove Photography was born. I found inspiration, in the most unlikely place.
Find more on our Heart Warrior’s Journey with Tetralogy of Fallot check out #wearredforcamden.
April 4, 2019