There’s nothing easy about your baby having open heart surgery at four days old, even when the surgery succeeds. I first saw Dr. Mary Donofrio, a prenatal cardiologist at Children’s National Hospital, when I was 28 weeks pregnant. My obstetrician said there was something wrong with the baby’s heart. Dr. Donofrio diagnosed a congenital heart defect in utero. Our newborn would need surgery soon after birth to survive.
At first, I didn’t understand why Dr. Donofrio suggested we meet a hospital social worker, but she was so helpful. Emily joined every prenatal appointment and visited me daily during baby Cannon’s hospital stay. A team of nurses made me feel comfortable enough to go home to our 1-year-old son at night. Leaving was incredibly hard, but Cannon was never alone. Each night, the nurses put a shirt I had worn in his isolette so he’d have my scent. It felt like a part of me was still with him.
The nurses made it possible for Cannon and me to have skin-to-skin contact so we could bond during the day, even though it set off his monitor alarms. They checked on me often and brought me water and meal vouchers. The doctors and staff at Children’s National save lives every day. They also saved my sanity.
Cannon is now a healthy baby. He loves to kick and splash in the bathtub and watch his older brother. We kept Cannon’s tiny hospital bracelet so, one day, we can share the story of how Children’s National saved his life.
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