When newlyweds Rob and Erin Marshall discovered that they were expecting their first child, they wanted to do something special. They decided to create a time-lapse video of one-second clips – one for each day of the pregnancy.
“We thought it would be priceless for our son to look back at this video and see how excited his family was for his arrival,” Rob told the Huffington Post in an email.
But Rob and Erin never could have predicted just how scary their journey would eventually become. Their son, Alexander, would first see photos of the newlywed couple doing the things they loved – exploring their new city of Cincinnati, Ohio; going to baseball games, trying out new restaurants, traveling, and spending time with family and friends…
“But life doesn’t always turn out exactly as we’ve planned,” the video caption says.
On March 19th, Rob and Erin went in for a level-two ultrasound. They were referred for by their obstetrician when sonograms experienced difficulties in capturing the left side of their baby’s heart. The level-two ultrasound revealed a life-threatening heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). By Erin’s seventh month of pregnancy, the left side of their baby’s heart still hadn’t developed. Only two of the four chambers were actually working.
According to the national institutes of health, the survival rate for HLHS is around 75% with open-heart surgery. And according to the CDC, babies who undergo surgery may still have lifelong complications, including the need for a heart transplant. Still, Erin and Rob remained hopeful.
“Once we received Alexander’s diagnosis at twenty-eight weeks, we made the conscious decision to be as positive and upbeat as possible,” Rob said. “We didn’t want the terrible news to get the best of us. My wife felt that approaching each day with a positive attitude would help Alexander to grow and be as healthy as he could be when he was born.”
At first, Erin and Rob had considered ending their time lapse video project, but in the end they decided to finish it.
“I could not think of any time in life when quitting was a good way to respond to a problem,” Rob said adding, “[We] knew he would love our son and we would be proud of him regardless of the condition of his heart.”
The couple consulted with a cardiologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. They discussed possible scenarios for Alexander’s birth and his treatment. They opted to perform a surgery called aortic arch advancement. The goal is to hopefully open up Alexander’s aorta to increase blood flow. Ideally this would help the left side of his heart grow on its own.
The surgery ended up being a wonderful success.
And, in hopes that their journey could provide “a roadmap for other parents in similar circumstances,” as well as wanting the documentation for themselves, the couple decided to extend their time-lapse video. It now covers the moments after birth, after surgery, and his return home.
Today, the left chambers little Alexander’s heart are “normal for a healthy baby,” Rob said, adding that “the condition of his heart since surgery has exceeded expectations.”
Doctors will still continue to monitor Alexander’s progress closely over the next year, but the family says they couldn’t be more grateful for the “aggressive approach” taken by Alexander’s doctors.
“They saved our son’s life and we owe them everything!”
Including their chance to enjoy parenthood.
“Being a parent has been an amazing journey for us,” Rob said. “It’s so rewarding to be able to watch Alexander growth and development over the past twelve weeks. We are so thankful that Alexander’s heart was repaired and that, barring the unforeseen, he’ll be able to have a normal and healthy life!”
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