Our beautiful daughter was born just three weeks ago. If you’ve been following our story you’ll know we’ve been struggling trying to have a child. After two years we were finally blessed with a beautiful princess we decided to name Isabella or Izzy as we like to call her.

She was the missing puzzle piece to our already incredible family. She was our miracle baby. Little did I know what that would come to mean in just three short weeks.

A murmur was discovered almost immediately after birth. Izzy’s oxygen levels, energy and overall health appeared to be fine but our doctors decided to keep an eye on her little heart. We were told there was a chance the murmur would go away but after our first visit with our pediatrician a week after coming home from the hospital, it was becoming clear that it wasn’t going away. Now the question was whether this was what they call an “innocent” murmur or an “abnormal” one.

After two years of praying for little Isabella to enter our lives, the last thing we wanted was for any major issues to arise. Our pediatrician scheduled an echocardiogram to get a closer look at what we were dealing with.

On Monday, August 7th, 2017 a doctor for Seattle Children’s Hospital gave us the news: Isabella had a valve that wasn’t fully developed and was causing the other half of her heart to work twice as heard. Her aortic valve was not opening enough to pass a sufficient amount of blood through her heart. Our princess was in bad shape and there was no other option but to have an operation on her heart. If you’re a parent and have ever been dealt bad news like that, you know that sickening feeling that hits you like a stack of bricks. My wife, Daya couldn’t hold back her tears as she held little innocent and unknowing Isabella to her chest. Our nine-year old daughter, Cassidy was with us and couldn’t comprehend what was being said so I did my best to hold it together in front of my family. The doctor told us he would confer with his associates to make sure they were all in agreement and then schedule Izzy’s operation. We thanked the doctor and ultrasound technician for their work and quietly exited the hospital. Right when we got outside I tried to tell Daya that everything was going to be okay and we both just broke down in front of Cassidy.

It’s been my tradition with Cassidy that whenever she has to get a shot at the doctor that we go out for ice cream afterwards to make up for the tears shed. Well, today was one of those days for mom and I. After ice cream, we were able to recognize the blessings of our situation.

  • The fact that we found this problem before it began to noticeably affect Isabella.
  • Seattle Children’s is literally one of the best hospitals you can take your child to for situations like the one we were facing.
  • I have very good health insurance (it is my belief that we should all have very good health insurance).
  • The procedure albeit delicate, would only take two hours to complete.
  • It can always be worse.

We mutually agreed we’d only worry when there was actually something to be worried about. For now though, we had a healthy baby that continued to be an answer to our prayers. Cassidy was there to help us every step of the way.

The following day we got a call from the doctor to inform us the situation was more serious than initially thought. Just a day ago he felt surgery could wait for another two to three weeks but suddenly he was calling Izzy’s situation “severe” and scheduled her operation for Thursday of the same week.

Other than a few close friends, coworkers and family, we didn’t tell anyone what was going on. To be fair, we didn’t really know ourselves. There was one person I needed to inform. It was the same person that performed our baby’s Dedication to the Lord the Sunday prior- our Pastor. He offered to pray with us and for baby Isabella on the day before her operation.

Wednesday was a blur as we prepared for our overnight stay with Izzy at Seattle Children’s. My former roommate and dear friend, Lou offered to have Cassidy stay with her and her grandchildren for a couple of nights while we focused on Izzy and packed our bags. Then, at around 7:30 that evening, Pastor James and his lovely wife, Sharon came to our house to visit and pray. They kept our spirits high and after communion, prayer, stories and laughter our souls felt rejuvenated and ready for what lay ahead.

It was hard getting to sleep that night. Cassidy sent Daya and I text messages telling us how much she missed us and wished she could be with her baby sister at the hospital. We had to be up at 3:30 a.m. to get ready and be there for our 6:15 a.m. check in. Finally, with Isabella in her rocker, Daya on the couch and I on the love seat, we fell asleep at about 10:30.

Before we knew it, our alarms on our phones announced it was time to wake up. After a shower, hot cup of coffee and one last prayer at the house, we finally hit the road at 4:30 a.m. After an hour drive to Seattle we pulled into the Seattle Children’s parking lot- Ocean 6 for anyone familiar with the layout. We arrived 45 minutes early but you never know what the traffic on I-5 is going to be like and there was no way we were taking any chances being late today. Daya, Izzy and I were the first ones there- actually, the only ones there. The front doors weren’t even open yet. It was only a few minutes later though that someone from the front desk opened the doors and got us checked in.

We remained in high spirits but couldn’t help from feeling the creeping anxiety come over us the closer we got to the time of separating from our little Isabella. Today after all, was three weeks to the day of Izzy’s birth.
After speaking with nurses, anesthesiologists and doctors, it was time for them to operate on our precious baby. What exactly were they going to do? Well, I’ll explain it to the best of my knowledge. It’s a procedure called aortic valvuloplastywhere the doctor inserts a catheter into Isabella’s blood vessel located around her thigh. They work their way up that blood vessel all the way into her heart where the blocked aortic valve is located. At that point they inflate a balloon in order to tear the valve flaps that grew together. It gets more complicated but I think I’ve given the gist of what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s usually a two hour operation and if all goes well, you are discharged the next day. Basically, real-life superheroes work at this hospital fnull time saving countless amount of lives. Our doctor we found out, just had a baby girl even more recently than Izzy’s birth. He told us he had a new perspective when working on a baby girl so close to his newborn’s age. It’s a humbling experience for all of us I think.

At 7:30 the anesthesiologist took Izzy while Daya and I went back to the waiting room. At about 10:00 the pager they gave us to communicate with went off. It was the two doctors- one being the main one heading the operation and another one training to do this particular operation on his own. I think of them as Izzy’s superheroes- that’s without question. They brought Daya and I into a small room to update us how the operation went. They brought in an x-ray of Isabella’s heart and before anything else, they said it went very well. According to the main doctor, anywhere from 30-50% of patients that have this procedure done need to return at some point in adulthood to replace the entire valve. You know what though? We’ll keep our eye on the situation but until there’s a reason to worry, we will focus on living life to the fullest- Isabella, Cassidy, Daya and I- the #ottofam. For now at least, everything was okay again.

After Izzy’s successful operation, they set us up in a room to observe her overnight. The medical staff monitored her vital signs throughout the day and night. Her pulse has been extremely weak in her right leg, the one where the catheter went in, but it should be okay as she continues to heal. She got sick after every feeding which can happen 24 hours after anesthesia so nothing to worry about there.

Special Thanks To Our Superheroes

These past three weeks and this last week especially have been a whirlwind of emotion for our family. We couldn’t have made it without the help, guidance, prayers and outright genius of a few people.
Lou and family for taking Cassidy in for the two days we needed to be with Izzy
Pastor James and his wife Pastor Sharon for dedicating our baby Izzy to the Lord and then later comforting us on short notice.
Charisma Christian Center for their prayers and well wishes.
My boss, coworkers/friends for supporting Daya and I with your well wishes and positive thoughts.
Our friends and family for checking in on us and being there to lend an ear.
ALL of the medical staff all the way from the day of Izzy’s birth when her murmur was first discovered all the way to the team at Seattle Children’s that went into our daughter’s heart with a catheter and blew up a 7mm diameter balloon to open up her aorta valve. Incredible.
Jesus for always providing in one way or another. Our faith is stronger than it’s ever been and we will always give Him the glory.

I would also like to thank my personal superhero and wife, Daya for taking care of our precious little Izzy every single day while I work. She is the strongest woman I know and can always rely on her to keep me strong.

Below is our story in pictures:

First ones in the parking lot. 8/10/17 @5:30a.m.
The Seattle Children’s team let us inside to check in.

Running on very little sleep. Even coffee and anxiety couldn’t hide our bloodshot eyes.

I’ll probably keep this badge forever. It’s already part of Isabella’s story.

“It’s going to be okay, pretty momma. Izzy’s going to be in safe hands soon.” 8/10/17 @6:00 a.m.
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Momma getting ready to hand Izzy off to the anesthesiologist.
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They showed us the current status of the procedure in live-time. She was born exactly three weeks ago to the day. 8/10/17 @ 9:30 a.m.
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Momma in the waiting room trying to rest. @ around 9:45 a.m.
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Surgery was a success! Momma gets to hold Izzy with her new opened up aortic valve. 8/10/17 @ 11 a.m.
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Momma comforting Izzy in her hospital bed. 8/10/17
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She loves our Izzy so much. 8/10/17
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Izzy gazing up at momma as if nothing ever happened.
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Hush little baby, don’t say a word. 8/10/17
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Wires and needles. You brave little thing. 8/10/17
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The hardest part is over. Now it’s time for bonding time and rest. 8/10/17
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Momma is tuckered out. @3 p.m. 8/10/17
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Monitoring her vitals
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So precious
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Checking her pulse full time.
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They’ve both been through a lot over the past 12 hours.
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She’s so small compared to my hand.
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Doing an ultrasound before we can be discharged. 8/11/17 @ 9:20 a.m.
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You’re doing good, baby. Let’s go home.

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Giving big sister an update. She wanted to be with her sister so bad. 8/10/17 @ 10 p.m.