When my husband, Jason, and I found out that we were going to be parents for the first time, we knew that it was going to be the greatest joy of our life. I carefully did everything that an expectant mother should do to stay healthy. Being a pharmacist myself, I knew exactly what that meant.
During a routine check-up with our OBGYN, it was discovered that our unborn son had a severe congenital heart defect; it was hypoplastic left heart syndrome with an absent aortic arch and double outlet single ventricle. In simpler terms, the left side of his heart was not developing and he did not have all four chambers. An older term that is commonly used to describe these babies is "blue babies."
Many doctors and specialists gave us no hope for Jacob's survival and said he wouldn't make it past birth. That was not a good enough answer for us. We were determined to fight for the answer we wanted and not give up, and to give our unborn son a chance to live a long and healthy life. After many ultrasounds and doctor appointments, we eventually saw a specialist in Houston, TX, who gave us hope for Jacob's survival after delivery.
On October 5, 2004, Jacob Lynn Verzwyvelt was born weighing 6lbs. 4oz. and 20 inches long. After a very difficult cesarean section, Jacob was wisked away to a team of doctors who were ready and waiting to give him the proper medical care that he needed. Only 15 hours after Jacob was born, he had his 1st open heart surgery, the Norwood procedure. Jacob spent the first 78 days of his life in Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. During those 78 days, things went from bad to worse. It seemed that whatever could go wrong, did go wrong.
However, Jacob's heart surgery and the function of his heart never skipped a beat; his heart stayed strong and was not affected by any of these happenings. After 78 days, Jacob came home for the first time. Then shortly after Hurricane Rita in 2005 he had his second surgery, the Glenn procedure. Jacob breezed through this surgery and was out of the hospital in seven days. For four years after that, Jacob had been very active and even played t-ball for Grand Lake Little League. However, the doctors decided in April 2009 that it was finally time for Jacob's last of the three surgeries, the Fontan procedure.
It seemed that we were so much more nervous this time than the last two surgeries. After the surgery was finally over, the surgeon came out and told us that Jacob did fine, but the surgery was very tough. It wasn't until three long and hard days later, Jacob woke up. That next day, this amazing little boy sat in a chair and ate for the first time. After two more days, he was up moving around and riding a tricycle around the hospital. He was put on a NO FAT diet for six weeks and had to leave the hospital 22 days later on diuretics and a fat free diet. The entire family complied to Jacob's diet because we are a team!
After three months being home and doing well, the doctors took Jacob off of all his medications except one blood pressure medication. He is so much more energetic and active than we could ever imagine. If our son had been born 15 years ago, he would not have made it.
Jacob is now 9 years old, in the 3rd grade and is happier than ever. He is a healthy, little boy with a very long life ahead of him.
I have never heard Jacob laugh so much, as we do now. He has always been happy, but this is an incredible difference. The doctors say that this should get him all the way into adulthood, unless problems arise. No more blue lips or fingernails! He is able to run and play like any normal little boy. He plays football with his friends on the playground and can golf and swim. And, because of him, we have been inspired to do everything that we can to live a heart healthy life and not to take anything for granted.
My husband and I are very grateful to the doctors and nurses who cared for our little hero. But most of all, we are very grateful to all of the generous people, like you, who donate to the American Heart Association which has helped fund the technology that has saved Jacob's life, and that will continue to contribute to the future discoveries that will help to continue to allow Jacob and his other "heart buddies" to grow and live normal lives.
Remember, we are all a team, Team Jacob, and teams never give up on each other. Thank you so much for your time and thoughtfulness.
- Written by Lori Verzwyvelt, Jacob's mother