Bringing your newborn home from the hospital is a momentous occasion. But Nicole Brinkman’s anticipation of a nervous car ride and excitement to introduce her new son, Jack, to his big sister, Ella, was shattered. At just one day old, he was diagnosed with a serious heart condition, critical aortic stenosis (a narrowing of the aortic valve opening, restricting blood to the aorta) after Jack’s pediatrician noticed a heart murmur.
“It was one of the worst moments of my life. I can’t even explain what I felt like to go from thinking I would be taking my baby home to join our family to receiving this life-threatening diagnosis. We had to quickly say goodbye to our new baby as he got prepped for a flight and trust he was in good hands,” says Nicole recalling the agony of preparing with husband, Brady for their own unexpected and urgent flight to join Jack several hours later.
In Edmonton, the newborn had a balloon valvuloplasty to widen the valve, changing Jack’s stenosis from critical to mild. The surgery went well and Jack has continued to be cared for by the team at the Children’s Heart Centre at HSC Winnipeg Children’s Hospital. While Jack’s valve stenosis worsened from mild to moderate at six weeks old, he has since remained stable.
But as Jack has grown into an active two year old, his heart condition has also developed. At a recent check-up, doctors at the Children’s Heart Centre discovered a second heart defect, subaortic stenosis (narrowing of the left ventricle that reduces blood flow). The family can only wait and see how Jack’s heart changes as he continues to grow, which will guide future treatments. There are many options available though, from another balloon valvuloplasty to valve replacements, to give Jack the best care. For now, he is monitored at HSC Winnipeg Children’s Hospital with regular echocardiograms and examinations.
“We could not have asked for better care than what Jack has received. He’s been so well taken care of and it helps put our minds at ease. There is uncertainty with his diagnosis about when and what types of interventions he will need in the future, says Nicole.
“We’ve been learning to live with some unknowns and knowing that he is being monitored helps us just focus on enjoying everyday life with Jack in between appointments.”
Despite everything, Jack is a typical happy toddler – always climbing, jumping and running. He loves to sing, ride his bike and play with his sister. All positive signs that Jack’s heart is functioning well.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” says Nicole to the hospital staff and the donors who provide the care, facilities and equipment to help care for Jack.
“Thank you so much for the support you are giving towards making sure that these kids are able to receive the best and most up-to-date care possible. The team at the Heart Centre is fantastic and knowing that they will also have a new facility is great news for kids like Jack.”