From time to time this newsfeed will include a closer look at our attorneys. The posts will be on topics not necessarily about the law but about what is personally important to our attorneys outside the office. This is the sixth installment of our spotlight as we feature a personal story from Attorney Andrew Atherton. Andrew practices in Trusts & Estates with a focus on Elder Law. Click here to see his bio. Thank you Andrew for sharing this incredibly scary but ultimately good news story with us. This is the kind of experience that helps remind us of the things we have in our lives for which we are grateful. February is American Heart Month. Click here to learn more about this awareness month and how the American Heart Association is working to save lives.
“The Month of February has significant meaning to my family and me. February is National Heart Awareness month and it so happens to be the birth month of our youngest child, Ann Louise. Ann Louise is the only one of our three children that was not born in North Carolina because her story began in Boston, MA. The way I practice elder law and live life has certainly been shaped by Ann Louise’s health struggles and health care needs even though I began practicing elder and special needs law well before my daughter was born.
Ann Louise was born on February 24, 2008 in Boston. However, her story started well before her birth. The week before Thanksgiving in 2007 we were celebrating my wife’s pregnancy and anticipating learning if we would have a third boy when we entered the ultrasound room. When we left the ultrasound room we had learned that we would be having a girl but that news was dwarfed by the discovery of a congenital heart defect that turned our world upside down. Ann Louise, was diagnosed with developing hypoplastic left heart syndrome at 22 weeks in utero. We were given the options of termination of the pregnancy or three surgeries after birth with Ann Louise living a dramatically shortened and limited life with half a heart. Because I refused to accept those two options I began furiously researching Ann Louise’s condition and found Boston Children’s Hospital. A doctor there, Dr Marx, talked to me for over two hours on the day before Thanksgiving and provided an alternative to waiting to do surgery after birth when one half of her heart had died off.
On Thanksgiving I spoke to Dr. Marx again and my wife and I made the decision to go to Boston for a second opinion. The Monday after Thanksgiving we caught the last two seats on a flight to Boston. We had been able to book a hotel room for the week, except Thursday night. When in Boston we learned that they could perform a balloon dilatation of Ann Louise’s heart in utero. If it worked the inflated balloon would open Ann Louise’s blocked heart valve and prevent her left ventricle from dying off. The procedure took the coordination of twelve top physicians at two hospitals. As it turned out all twelve physicians where available on Thursday. My wife was required to stay in the hospital on Thursday night. The procedure was a success and the doctors were able to immediately see restored blood flow through Ann Louise’s blocked valve. Ann Louise was the 3rd girl to have the procedure and the 56th child in the world. They have performed hundreds of successful procedures since.
As I write this, Ann Louise is about to turn 10, and has a full functioning heart. We have been through lots of ups and downs. During the first two years Ann Louise was in Boston for over 700 days. There were very scary times where her life was hanging by a thread and ultimately two replaced heart valves. Through it all both ventricles work well, and we are told should support her for the rest of her life.
In my elder law practice every client situation is different. Just like I found a solution for my daughter’s care I enjoy working with my clients’ specific situations to find solutions to their unique care and financial needs. Further, my experiences with Ann Louise’s care has given me a deeper understanding and compassion for the difficult medical situations that many of my clients and their families find themselves.”
This video “Jump Rope for Heart” from the American Heart Association is about Ann Louise and the support she receives from our amazing community.
This video is a CBS news report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the procedure performed on Ann Louise.
An excellent article from the Boston Children’s Hospital about Ann Louise.