Although modern day medicine has come on leaps and bounds in the last century, there are still some problems that doctors struggle to fix. Among these, sadly, are some defects experienced by unborn babies. So, it’s hard to imagine the grief that one couple felt after learning that their growing fetus had only a 50 percent chance of survival.
At the beginning of 2016 Michelle and Lee Aslin were living in Grimsby, in the north of England, with their daughter Katelyn. Although they were a happy family of three, the couple were keen to expand their brood. For six years, then, the parents had been trying to conceive another baby with no luck.
But, after years of trying, Michelle and Lee finally found out that they were pregnant once more. Naturally, they were ecstatic and couldn’t wait to meet their little bundle of joy. However, their blissful happiness turned out to be rather short lived.
In fact, 20 weeks into their pregnancy, Michelle and Lee attended a routine scan. And that’s when doctors at Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby discovered that something wasn’t right. Specifically, their unborn son’s heart appeared to be half the size it should be at his stage in development.
Their baby had what’s called a hypoplastic left heart, meaning that his left ventricle was smaller than the right part of his heart. The condition often indicates that the main blood vessel, which transports blood from the heart to other parts of the body, is not as big as usual. This affectively prevents the heart from pumping blood around the body properly.
The condition occurs as a result of abnormal development in the womb, and without medical intervention it will sadly result in the infant’s death. In fact, babies born with a hypoplastic left heart require a series of surgeries throughout their lives or a full heart transplant. This was the terrifying future facing Michelle and Lee’s unborn child.
What’s more, doctors determined upon investigation that the Aslins’ baby had just a 50 percent chance of survival. And even if he beat these odds, the baby would need three open heart surgeries and would not be expected to live into adulthood. Due to these dire prospects, then, the medical team asked Michelle and Lee were if they wanted to consider aborting the fetus.
However, the expectant parents remained hopeful and decided to continue with the pregnancy. They even set up a Facebook page for friends, family and well-wishers to follow their baby’s progress. Then, on September 1, 2016, the family welcomed their new baby son.
Born via cesarean section, the boy, named Reggie, weighed a healthy nine pounds 12 ounces. Alerting their loved ones to the birth on Facebook, the family revealed that their “safe and sound” baby had “lots of black hair and is very chubby.” Like most doting parents, the Aslins bombarded their feed with adorable snaps of little Reggie in the hospital.
Although, at first glance, he looked like a completely healthy baby, there were some signs of Reggie’s awful infliction. For instance, pictures showed him hooked up to a number of tubes and wires as he was monitored by doctors. Plus, his family made an announcement regarding his surgery.
“He’s responding really well to everything and still managing to breath for himself,” they revealed. “He’s still in intensive care unit but hopefully if his blood sugars are stable tomorrow he will be moving out and going into a cardiac unit for babies. It’s looking like his operations will be early next week.”
So, after just four days, the medical staff took Reggie in for his first procedure. The surgery would take all day and would essentially switch the blood flow of the heart. Reggie’s right ventricle would then be the one to pump oxygenated blood around his body. Doctor’s would also create a shunt so that they could pass deoxygenated blood to the boy’s lungs.
Fortunately, after what must have been an agonizing wait for his parents, the medical team successfully completed Reggie’s surgery. “He’s back from a long day in theatre everything went to plan and he’s stable, he’s been ventilated and is very poorly at the minute,” Reggie’s family announced on Facebook.
“The surgeons are very happy with how he’s doing but it’s now up to little Reggie to fight for himself and start to recover. It’s been a long day for all the family and as you can see it’s late and we are all so tired. We thank you all for your kind words and will get to you all when the time [is] right,” they wrote.
Thankfully, Reggie recovered well. “The first operation is always the most dangerous one because it is the longest and most complex, so that was the biggest hurdle,” Lee told the Daily Mail. “Because he has pulled through that, we have got all the confidence in the world that he will pull through the others.”
“He has been through more in his few weeks of life than I have in 35 years. He is definitely a little fighter,” the proud father added. Then, after six weeks in Leeds Royal Infirmary, the Aslins were able to take Reggie home. Finally, the family was able to look forward to their future as a family of four.
“It means so much to have him here and however long we have with him, whether it’s two months, a year, 10 years or beyond, we are just happy for this bit of time,” Michelle said. “We are going to give him as much love and as many memories as we can. He will have the best life he can ever have.”
Once home, the loving parents took pride in every simple achievement Reggie made. That included sleeping through the night on his own to having a whole day without his feeding tube. Although little Reggie has to regularly check in at the hospital, for now he is able to live a relatively normal life.
Michelle and Lee are happy for every single moment they get to spend with Reggie and remain practical yet hopeful for the future. “We are hoping that in the next 19 or 20 years, something else will come out to help him,” Michelle revealed. “If he doesn’t want to fight any more that is his choice – it isn’t anyone else’s to make,” she said.
Whatever the future brings, there’s no denying that little Reggie has brought joy to his family. In addition, he has thousands of people supporting his recovery on the Facebook page that his family has created for him. Hopefully, with the advancement of medicine and technology, he will go on to live a long and happy life.