Published on: 08/10/2017
MIAMI -- A six-week-old baby and his mother are preparing to return to their home state of Missouri this month after a life-saving journey to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. The infant, born with only half a heart, misconnected pulmonary veins and other complications, was deemed inoperable by several congenital cardiac surgical teams across the country, before his parents sought help at Nicklaus Children’s at the urging of other families on social media.
Calvin Taylor is bright-eyed and healthy after the July surgery to correct hypoplastic left heart syndrome (essentially half a heart), complicated by a rare congenital malformation in which all four pulmonary veins were improperly connected within his tiny heart.
Calvin’s life is a tribute to his determined mother, an active social media presence by mothers of babies who have survived serious heart defects, and a gifted surgical team, led by Dr. Redmond P. Burke, Director of Cardiovascular Surgery at The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children’s.
“A determined mother can frequently save an “inoperable” baby and social media can help,” said Dr. Burke.
After Calvin’s June 28 birth near the family’s hometown of Savannah, Missouri, the 7 pound 2 ounce boy appeared to be perfectly healthy. But several hours later, the baby abruptly stopped breathing and was rushed to a regional children’s specialty hospital.
After several days of assessment by the pediatric congenital heart team, the family received the devastating news that Calvin’s condition was too complex for him to undergo surgery. In addition to the dual heart conditions, he also had narrow airways and had suffered a minor stroke. The family was told that he was inoperable and that they should prepare themselves for his passing.
“I asked for doctors to transfer the baby to another hospital for a second opinion,” recalls Calvin’s mother, Sarah Lemons. The hospital, in turn, contacted four possible congenital heart transfer hospitals, but all declined to receive the baby due to the severity of his condition.
Like many mothers of medically complex children, Sarah took to social media in search of answers. She soon made contact with families of surviving congenital heart babies who encouraged her to seek help from Dr. Burke at Nicklaus Children’s. The Heart Program quickly accepted Calvin and arranged for him to be transported by its LifeFlight Critical Care Transport program aboard a fixed-wing aircraft.
Calvin underwent surgery at Nicklaus Children’s on July 27 and by August 4, his mother was able to hold him in her arms for the first time since the diagnosis.
Within the next few days, mom and baby are expected to be ready to return home. Sarah is eagerly anticipating having the entire family together again, including Calvin’s father, Cole Taylor, and the baby’s three siblings, ages 13, 6 and 2.
“People ask me why I wouldn’t give up on Calvin when so many told me he could not be helped,” recalls Sarah, who had been quietly, painfully planning his funeral, even as she fought for him to have a future. “It was my children at home. I just couldn’t let them lose their precious little brother,” she said. “I’m looking forward to us all being together.”
Calvin will return to the hospital in approximately six months for the second phase of his staged heart repair. The second phase is conducted after the child has the opportunity to grow and get stronger.
The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked among the best congenital heart programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.