No family wants to hear their newborn or soon-to-be born child has a heart defect, or other medical condition. Sometimes the baby ends up healthy, sometimes more bad news follows, and other times the child lives a long life but has to go through years of surgeries and medical treatment. But often, families realize they aren’t alone, and that certain conditions are more common than people think.
Nolan Radford, the son of Jessica Radford and Justin Korelus, was born July 2020 with a heart defect called ‘Tetralogy of Fallot’. Nolan was diagnosed in April when he was still in his mother’s womb, and would go on to have full corrective open heart surgery Jan. 27 in Vancouver, at just six months old.
Now, Nolan is fully healthy, with no future surgeries required. But he will have to undergo yearly checkups for the rest of his life.
“He has endless energy now. He’s always rolling around and lifting himself up. Before, he would get really tired, and couldn’t meet those normal baby milestones. Now he is awake for much longer periods of time and is catching up to those typical milestones,” said Jessica.
Nolan is now a healthy baby boy, but getting there wasn’t easy. According to Jessica, she learned 1 out of every 100 newborns has some kind of congenital heart defect. Though not every defect impacts the child the same – the severity ranges and surgery may or may not be required – it’s a lot for a family to have thrust upon them, especially if they’re not prepared.
“I was still pregnant with him when we found out, so we had time to plan. But I know there are three other mothers in town who didn’t find out until after their babies were born and the babies still need similar surgeries,” Jessica said.
Realizing there are other people in the community going through similar things has been helpful for the family, and now they want to help raise awareness of ‘Tetralogy of Fallot’ and other defects, and just how common they can be.
TOF is a combination of defects that results in a hole between the bottom two chambers of the heart, restricted blood flow to pulmonary arteries, and a misplaced aorta, among other things, which results in a decrease of oxygen in the blood.
Radford said the family had endless support – they ran a successful crowdfund campaign that brought in more than $4,000 to help with costs accumulated as a result of missing work, and received help from Ronald McDonald House, Hope Air, and Friends of Children, while they were traveling back and forth to Vancouver.
There is no full-time cardiologist in Fort St. John. A team from Vancouver comes up once a year, and to Prince George three times a year, Jessica said, which results in families having to travel lots during the first year of their child’s life. She said her family had to travel as well to receive an ultrasound of the heart, called an echo cardiogram technician, because there are no such technicians in town.
“It’s not easy, but it’s not always the worst case scenario. It can get better,” Jessica said.
In some of the support groups she’s in, Jessica said Nolan and other babies like him are called heart warriors.
“The kids may have conquered their defects, but they fought a long time, and are still battling. They’re still warriors.”
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com