My husband Mike and I will never forget the feeling of excitement we had the morning we were finding out if we were having a boy or a girl. It seemed like we had to wait an eternity, wondering whether we’d hear the words “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl.”
Finally, the time came — and our nurse let us know we were expecting a BOY! After screeching from excitement and smiling from ear to ear, we quickly realized something was wrong.
Our doctor had noticed the left side of our son’s heart was noticeably smaller than the right, a sign that he had a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS. With HLHS, the left side of the heart is underdeveloped and unable to properly pump blood.
That day, our world immediately changed. Our minds were racing in every direction, and it seemed like we were literally living in a nightmare. We had plans of shopping for baby clothes and celebrating over a nice lunch, and instead we were meeting with doctors all afternoon and uncontrollably crying. It was this night we named our son “Vincent” (Vinny for short), which means “to conquer.” We needed a strong name for a boy who needed to overcome so much.
Meeting the doctors and planning for HLHS surgery
I remember waking up the next morning and thinking there was never going to be a day that wouldn’t hurt. That day, we met our cardiologist Dr. Kevin Friedman at the Boston Children’s Hospital Heart Center for the first time. We were scared and confused, but Dr. Friedman and his team gave us a glimpse of hope when hope seemed beyond impossible.
Throughout the final months of my pregnancy, there were lots of ups and downs. Dr. Friedman couldn’t confirm Vinny’s exact diagnosis, but said he had borderline HLHS.
We had no certainty about what the days after his birth would look like, but what we did know was we had a team of doctors behind us who were dedicated to finding answers for our boy and doing everything they could to heal his heart.
Before we knew it our little guy was born, and it was love at first sight. He was nothing but perfect. From the outside you would never be able to tell or imagine what lay ahead.
Within minutes he was taken from us and quickly wheeled over the bridge to Boston Children’s. (I delivered at Brigham and Women’s Hospital). It wasn’t until several weeks later that we saw our little Vinny awake again.
Hope at the Heart Center and beyond
Vinny was quickly placed in a medically induced coma and assessed by several doctors and surgeons who planned the best course of action for his heart condition.
It was decided that cardiac surgeon Dr. Sitaram Emani would perform an aortic coarctation repair to expand his aorta and improve blood flow through Vinny’s heart. Although this was an open-heart procedure that would require bypass and weeks of intensive post-surgery care, there were signs of hope: Vinny’s diagnosis was not looking as serious as previously thought.
After waiting for seven hours while he was in the operating room, at 1:00 in the morning, we finally received word that our Vinny’s surgery was a success.
The next few weeks had lots of ups and downs. When you’re spending every waking moment in the cardiac ICU, you can’t help but be overcome by sadness and loss of hope. But our family, friends, 8 South and 8 East nurses, cardiologists and surgeons never lost faith in our guy.
We came home as a family of three just a few days shy of Vinny’s one-month birthday. It was not the story we ever imagined living, but it is our story and our miracle.
Vinny turned 6 months old last week, and he’s the happiest little boy. He is thriving and continues to amaze us with his progress. Although there may be setbacks with his health in the coming years, we feel reassured that he is in the best of hands. Boston Children’s Hospital saved our Vinny, and for that we are forever thankful.
About the bloggers: Laura and Mike Arico have been married for about two years and are Vinny’s proud parents. They love taking Vinny to their local South Boston library for story time and music class. Vinny already loves all New England sports teams and his parents look forward to taking him to his first game soon. In addition, they are happy supporters of the Boston Children’s Heart Center.
Learn more about the Department of Cardiac Surgery.