ATLANTA - Becoming a parent for the first time can be powerful, and nerve-wracking.
But few parents face the kind of ordeal Kylie and Ben Hutson of Athens have experienced this week.
They found themselves getting to know their daughter Hadley as she recovered from heart surgery in Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's cardiac ICU.
Fortunately, the Hutsons and their doctors had months to prepare for her birth, knowing her first few days wouldn't be easy.
Ben Hutson says they've spent months getting everything ready,
"Everything is in line, we just have to get there," he says, of Hadley's birth. "I'm ready to have the next three weeks over, so we can get her home."
Kylie Hutson's pregnancy was pretty routine, she says, until her 20- week checkup.
"And that was when the ultrasound tech was very quiet," she says. "She was just studying more than anything."
Kylie wondered why.
"And I happened to say, 'Is is everything all right over there, you're quiet. No joking. No conversation,'" she remembers. "And she said, 'You know, it seems a little odd. Something is a little bit different.'"
The right side of Hadley's heart was much larger than the left side, which is a clue something is wrong.
Soon Kylie and Ben were sent to a high-risk pregnancy specialist.
Their birth hospital, Piedmont Athens Regional, teamed up with cardiologist Dr. Erik Michelfelder and his team at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Sibley Heart Center, to figure out what was wrong with Hadley's heart.
Looking at images of her heart, Dr. Michelfelder and his team found two problems.
She had a severe narrowing in Hadley's aortic arch, which feeds oxygen-rich blood from her heart into her lower body.
And there was a hole between the lower chambers of Hadley's heart, disrupting the blood flow.
While babies are still in the womb, they're safe, Dr. Michelfelder explains.
They're receiving oxygen from their mother.
But, once a baby is born, things change.
"So, these babies, undiagnosed, can go in shock and end up very sick before we figure out what's going on," Dr. Michelfelder says.
Hadley was born on a Sunday night.
By Monday morning, just 12 hours old, Hadley was transported from Athens to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston by a neonatal critical care team.
The next morning, just a day and a half old, the Hutsons baby was headed into the operating room, where surgeons would try to repair both heart defects.
"It's tough when they wheel her to surgery," Kylie says. "They give you the opportunity to hug her and kiss her and say goodbye. We know she's in great hands, but it's not fun to do that, right?"
Still the Hutsons and their team know this is part of the plan.
"And it's important because there are a host of conditions like Hadley's, where if we know about it beforehand, we can prevent the baby from becoming very ill," says Dr. Michelfelder.
The next morning, Hadley Huston is doing well, even opening her eyes in the cardiac ICU.
Her parents hoping she's on the other side now, the next part of the plan, will be to bring their baby girl home.
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