Courtney Whitmore was born 22 years ago with a cleft palate, two clubbed feet and fists that were so tightly clenched they couldn’t be pulled apart. Since Courtney was an otherwise happy and healthy baby, neither her parents nor her doctor saw cause to be concerned about these seemingly unrelated conditions. What they didn’t realize was that these were the first clues to a genetic puzzle that would take ten years to unravel.
The next clue came at age 3. …
As the lights dimmed and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” blasted from loudspeakers, Kevin Nolan III took to the stage for his very first dance recital. Sporting striped pants, a turquoise bow tie and a black top hat, Kevin joined his class in performing two hip-hop jazz routines to a packed house. Kevin’s mood was perfectly in step with the song’s lyrics.
“He had so much fun,” says Kevin’s mom, Laura. “He said he can’t wait to get on stage again.”
While a first dance recital is a big deal for any 5-year-old, it’s especially poignant for Kevin, who was diagnosed prenatally with Ebstein’s anomaly, a rare heart condition that causes leakage of the tricuspid valve and backup of blood flow into the heart. Kevin also had pulmonary valve regurgitation, which was stealing blood flow away from his essential organs. His condition was so severe that when it was first discovered during a prenatal ultrasound, doctors at a hospital in Boston said he might not survive.
“We met with a heart specialist who told us we should just say goodbye,” says Kevin’s dad, Kevin Jr. “He said nothing could be done.” …
Amanda Mattioli was working in Afghanistan as a government contractor and had just completed a whirlwind round of travel to three separate continents when she learned she was pregnant.
The helicopter unit that took her back to the main base, so she could return home for her pregnancy, gave her a unit sticker to commemorate her baby’s first helicopter ride. Little did she know it would also mark the beginning of a much longer journey for her and her son, William “Jayce” James. …
At five months old, Diana was diagnosed with tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia, a congenital heart defect (CHD) that couldn’t be treated in her home country of Venezuela. “Being told that your child has no chance of surviving is devastating,” says Diana’s mom, Alejandra. “We were given no hope.”
Research into where in the world Diana would receive the best treatment led her parents to the Heart Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Throughout Diana’s journey to health, Alejandra relied on support from her husband, her sisters and the community she found in Boston. “From the beginning, we felt that everyone — from social workers to physicians to staff at the Hale Family Center for Families — worked together so that my daughter could have a chance to live.”
With Diana now through surgery and thriving, Alejandra shares her family’s experience to offer hope and guidance to other families coping with pediatric heart disease.
The Experience Journals are collections of stories, videos and personal experiences from families about what it has been like to live with their children’s illnesses. This video is part of the Spanish Voices Journal made possible by support from Milagros para Niños.