Broken Hearts {Including Mom’s} Do Heal :: Thank you to the Pediatric Cardiology team at Ochsner Children’s!

This post is sponsored by Ochsner Children’s Hospital but is an authentic first hand account from a local New Orleans mom, Caroline Robertson. Part one of her story is available here. Her son Henry receives ongoing care at Ochsner Children’s here in New Orleans, while she finds solitude in her art business and heart support groups.

Broken Hearts {Including Mom’s} Do Heal :: Thank you to the Pediatric Cardiology team at Ochsner Children’s!

March 1, 2021. By far one of the darkest days of my life. This was the day of my 20-week anatomy scan when my husband and I were told that our baby had a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) known as “Aortic Valve Stenosis.” I navigated the rest of my pregnancy in a depressive state with so much of the future unknown. Looking back, I’m not sure how I even got out of bed some days. Then, on July 14th, our CHD baby boy (Henry) was born. Within four hours, he was rushed via ambulance to another facility – separate from the one I would recover in – and underwent emergency heart intervention in the Cardiac Cath Lab at Ochsner Main Campus. (More on my back story here). Carrying, birthing, and raising a CHD baby is something that has changed my life forever, and I wasn’t quite sure how I was ever going to pick myself up again. But seasons change, and so do people. And whilepediatric cardiology in New Orleans certain times of the year can evoke strong feelings based on past experiences, it is within these constant cycles of change that we are able to navigate life’s challenges with a deeper sense of awareness and strength. Will it always be a part of my life – and more importantly – Henry’s? Yes. But will I let it ruin the beauty in it all? Absolutely not.

When I wrote my first article about Henry’s Congenital Heart Defect last year, I was not the same person. And although it was the exact same time of year, I was in a different season – emotionally. I remember it was not long after writing for New Orleans Mom that I was driving my children to school, and I realized I had forgotten that it was a dress down day (again – why do we buy school uniforms?), and I was devastated. Devastated. I began to sob to the point where it was hard to even catch my breath.

Then, I thought to myself, “I have been through A LOT worse than this.”

It was that day, at that moment, that I decided I was going to snap out of a dark season and into a warmer one. I knew if I didn’t evoke some type of change, that it would be harder to find that joie de vivre, and I’d look back with so much regret. So, that’s just what I did – I started making changes.

I went back to therapy, focused on MY emotional well-being, and I began doing things that would eventually play a huge role in my healing process. I started painting and selling canvases (named “Heart Winks” – inspired by Henry and other loved ones in my life), joined the Board of Directors for a local heart organization (The Henry Aucoin Foundation), heart mom support groups in New Orleanscultivated relationships that served me (I’m looking at you, heart mom group), and re-evaluated ones that didn’t. Slowly, I began to transition into the next season, and joy started to become more present in my life than sadness.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not easy. And while nothing, and I mean absolutely NOTHING, can prepare you for having a chronically sick child, you CAN get there. Both grief and happiness can coexist. Your heart WILL heal – you just have to go through the stormy seasons until the sun shines again.

As for Henry, his physical heart is constantly being monitored as the future of his CHD (Aortic Valve Stenosis) is always unknown. At first, we attended cardiology visits every month at Ochsner for monitoring. These include an EKG, an ECHO, and a visit with his main cardiologist – Dr. Jessica Mouledoux. After a year or so, we were able to space out the visits every 3 months, and for now we go every 6 months – which is huge progress! So far, Henry has had two balloon valvuloplasty procedures, and although they were both very successful (thank you, Drs. Ivory Crittendon and Victor Lucas), we still never know what is next.

As I stated before, each Pediatric Cardiology visit sparks a type of anxiety that you can’t explain unless you live it. However, his amazing team at Ochsner Children’s helps lessen that anxiety. Every visit, Dr. Mouledoux has a certain way of easing my nerves and reminding me that everything is going to be okay. Not only does she take the time to explain things medically to me, but she also shows a sense of empathy and support that is comforting during unsettling times. If I am ever worried, I know I can always reach out directly to his team. I have made a few after-hours calls (some comical, i.e., like the one after my 20-year high school reunion), where they guided me on how to check his pulse, heart rate, ask questions to ensure I did not have to bring him to the ED (like shortness of breath, him turning blue, etc.), and brought me back to solid ground – mentally. They are a brilliant group of medical staff, and I completely trust them with my son’s life – literally. So thank you again, to the Pediatric Cardiology team at Ochsner Children’s. Thank you.

Please remember this. No matter how intense or overwhelming your feelings may be at a particular moment in time, they are not permanent. Just like the ever-changing seasons, emotions also ebb and flow, but they do not define our entire existence or our future. Your heart and mind can both be at peace again and when that happens, you think to yourself, “I did it. I survived.” So keep going – one day you’ll be able to breathe all over again – and what a great feeling that is.

Caroline Robertson heart mom


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