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Share Your Story: Jolene Tesch

by Anne S. on Monday, April 28, 2014

Jolene Tesch Shakopa, MN

A poet once wrote of a dear friend’s death, “…‘tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” On August 11, 2010 I truly understood the depth of this quote. The life-long pain of loss can be eased by the memories you shared with your loved one and the love you will always have in your heart for them.

I never contemplated doing advocacy work until after the arrival of our second child, David Dwayne. David was born a seemingly healthy baby on May 21, 2010. He had good color, good weight and a great appetite. However, in the evening hours of his birthday and the early morning hours of the day that followed he didn’t seem quite the same. It was a frantic turn of events in those early morning hours that lead David’s oxygen starved body to multi-system organ failure and into a NICU bed. He was diagnosed as having a rare congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome - a condition that needs immediate medical intervention. After multiple surgeries, plenty of complications, a roller coaster of emotions and 2 ½ months in the hospital we were finally able to bring our little monkey home – a day we aren’t likely to ever forget. In the late morning of August 11, 2010 David took his last breath while napping. The love I have in my heart for him and every memory I have of him are what get me through each day without him.

It was that love for him that began my path of advocacy work for those affected by congenital heart defects. Since David’s death, I have had many fantastic mentors that have taught me so much about congenital heart defects, pulse oximetry and pre-natal detection. But it was Annamarie Saarinen who led me to the American Heart Association during their help to get every baby born in Minnesota screened for critical congenital heart defects through use of pulse oximetry. During the 2013 legislation committee hearings I was able to share David’s story and highlight the importance of early detection for critical congenital heart defects using pulse oximetry. After this initial introduction to the American Heart Association, I realized it is more than just David’s story that has made an impact on my life – it is the loss of a brother from a congenital heart defect, the loss of an aunt from sudden cardiac arrest, the loss of a grandmother from a stroke, the loss of my father-in-law from a heart attack, an uncle and a nephew living with a congenital heart defects, many family members and friends that have dealt with the aftermath of a heart attack and the deep seeded belief that my two earth babies, Charlie and Raina, deserve a healthier world to live in. All these reasons led me to volunteer for the State Advocacy Committee. I have so much to learn and so much to do and I have found the right people to help teach me more along the way. I am hopeful that David’s story and my passion will help save lives for generations to come.

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