It was news no parent should ever have to hear. After welcoming identical twin girls into the world in 2015, Cassidy and Chad Lexcen of Chaska, Minnesota learned that one of their newborns had an inoperable heart condition. Tiny Teegan was sent home, along with her thriving sister Riley, so that the family could spend together what little time Teegan might have.
"We lived thinking that any time she went to sleep, she might not wake up again,” recalls Cassidy, mother of four. “And we did everything we could to make sure she never cried, because we were afraid the strain might be too much for her struggling heart.”
Though Teegan grew only a few pounds during her first three months, a stark contrast to her twin sister, the critically ill baby stunned her family and pediatrician with each day she survived. Her will to live spurred her family to search for a miracle.
An internet search of innovative pediatric heart surgeons led the family to contact Dr. Redmond Burke, Director of Cardiovascular Surgery at The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children's Hospital. Dr. Burke welcomed the Lexcens with open arms. After an assessment by the care team, it was revealed that Teegan had only a single lung and hypoplastic left heart syndrome, essentially half a heart.
Dr. Burke used 3D technology to plan a complex surgery. During the seven-hour procedure, conducted in December of 2015, he rebuilt Teegan’s aorta with donated human heart tissue, connecting the aorta and pulmonary artery and placing a shunt from the right ventricle to the right pulmonary artery.
Today, Teegan, 3, is thriving. She and Riley attend preschool together and enjoy hide-and-seek games, swimming and playing with dolls.
Still pending – once Teegan grows a bit more -- is a Fontan procedure to connect her lower body blood return directly to her lungs. The family will return to Nicklaus Children’s and Dr. Burke for the procedure. They would consider nowhere else.
“Teegan is a fighter,” said Chad Lexcen. “We are so incredibly grateful for The Heart Program team for giving her the chance she needed.”
Teegan and her sister Riley on their first day of preschool. Teegan currently wears a nasal cannula to deliver supplemental oxygen until she is able to undergo her third and final cardiac operation.