Life. Changed Forever.

By Meghan Bailey on Oct 29, 2014

Life. Changed Forever. 

The first year of Greyson Gallardo’s life, as told by his father, Greg. 

The morning of our 4D Ultrasound was full of excitement. It had been weeks since we last saw our baby boy. When we arrived, the ultrasound tech was so gracious. We heard our son’s heartbeat before she found his face, and once we saw it, we fell in love all over again. Our son looked strong; his cheeks were full, and the reality of being a parent in just a few short months was real. We remember looking at the ultrasound tech because she stayed in one area near his chest for quite a while, and her face was nervous. When the ultrasound was over, the tech gave us a copy of the ultrasound and told us that we needed to go to our doctor immediately. That is when our lives changed, forever.

Ever since my wife, Paloma, was little it had been a dream of hers to become a mother. When the pregnancy test came back positive with two pink lines, we were both so happy and overwhelmed with joy.

The first prenatal visit was completely normal, and we were told that our due date would be mid-October. Paloma’s pregnancy was developing just as doctors, books, friends and family said it would. It wasn’t until August 5th at the end of our 4D Ultrasound that our lives changed forever.

The ultrasound tech couldn’t tell us anything else except that we needed to call our doctor immediately. We panicked; we just saw our baby on the screen and everything looked okay to us, but we took her advice and called our doctor. 

We saw the doctor the very next morning and after reviewing the ultrasound, our doctor asked us to take a long lunch. She had called in a specialist, and we needed to come back in an hour and a half.
At this point, we didn’t know what to expect; we didn’t know what was happening.

Once the specialist arrived, we were told that our son had Tricuspid Atresia, a type of heart disease that is present at birth (congenital heart disease), in which the tricuspid heart valve is missing or abnormally developed. The defect blocks blood flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle. In our son’s case the right side of his heart was missing. Tricuspid atresia requires three open-heart surgeries within the first year of birth. 

Tricuspid Atresia can never be corrected, but the surgeries can help him to lead a close to normal life.

According to Greyson’s cardiologist, Dr. Michael L. Ciccolo, 3 to 5 babies in every 100,000 receive this diagnosis. While the baby was still in his gestational state, he was completely fine, and everything was normal. The danger would strike when he was born. If we hadn’t found out about his condition, his chance of survival would have been almost non-existent.

On October 15th, our baby Greyson was born. Greyson was immediately taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and was prepped for surgery to keep his shunt open.

All babies are born with their shunt open; it naturally closes within two days of birth. If Greyson’s had closed, the blood flow would have stopped, and he would have died. They were able to keep Greyson’s shunt open, and he spent two weeks in the NICU before having his first open heart surgery. Paloma and my mom never left his side.

The recovery process was emotional. Paloma recalled, “Greyson flat lined on multiple occasions. Nurses and doctors would rush in and push us away to revive him. When your child flat lines, it is an out of body experience; seeing what doctors need to do to revive him and only being able to hope is such a helpless feeling.” Toward the end of the six weeks, Greyson started to show signs of improvement. His heart had started to settle, and he was able to go home on December 4th, 2013. It was the most joyous day you can imagine.

A child who has Tricuspid Atresia has a few obstacles that a child without it doesn’t. Things such as a lack of endurance; they get tired very easily, and they have to take daily medication to ensure blood continues to flow normally. Their blood pressure and heart rate will never be normal.

We were lucky we live in Las Vegas. There are only two pediatric heart specialists on the West Coast specialized to handle the type of heart condition Greyson has, and one of them practices in Las Vegas. “Studies have shown that Nevada has twice the national average of finding heart diseases because our state puts more into prenatal diagnosis,” said Dr. Ciccolo.

Heart babies, as medical professionals call them, are one of a kind, and nearly sixty percent are diagnosed prenatally. “Being able to know baby Greyson’s condition prior to his birth gave him a greater chance of survival,” said Dr. Ciccolo. Greyson’s chances of survival within the first 24 hours was ninety-five percent; after his first operation the rate of survival stayed the same. The third surgery he had six months after birth has a survival rate of ninety-six percent. Fifteen years ago, they didn’t have these kinds of operations. With any luck, with the way medicine is evolving, they will be able to find a way of extending the life expectancy of someone living with Tricuspid Artesia.

As my wife says, we take things one day at a time, and we cherish him. You never know when he may not be here with us. If we could give any advice to parents - be diligent with your prenatal care, and trust your gut. Your life doesn’t end when you find out your baby has a defect or illness. There is a reason they came to you the way they are.

If we would have found out earlier, people may have tried to talk us out of having him. With his heart condition or not, our life is our baby, Greyson, and we wouldn’t change anything.

Greyson just celebrated his first birthday. Although he still has many challenges ahead, he is happy and growing every day.