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Brooks’ Story: The Millers Had Choices for Their Son’s Cardiac Care. They Chose St. Joe’s.​

With two young boys ages two and four, life for Meghan Miller and her husband Ray was already busy. It was about to get even busier. Soon their sons Easton and Maverick would be joined by a new sibling and the family looked forward to the happy kind of hectic having three kids under the age of five would bring.

“When I went for my 20-week ultrasound at St. Joe’s Women’s I was expecting things to go similarly to my other two pregnancies,” explains Meghan. “I had a general idea of what I would be seeing as the technician was taking all the measurements and looking at my baby. But when she kept going back to the heart multiple times, I knew something wasn’t right.”

Still, she remained optimistic when the doctor came in to take a look for himself. He too seemed to take particular interest in her baby’s heart but tried to alleviate the concern Meghan was now feeling.

“He didn’t think it was anything but wanted me to see a pediatric cardiologist at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital just in case.”

Based on the diagnostic imaging, the specialist determined her son had a condition called hypoplastic aortic arch and aortic stenosis, a congenital heart defect in which part of his aorta was too narrow. Although the news was frightening, Meghan and Ray were comforted by the fact that the condition was very correctable.

“My doctors at St. Joe’s monitored me very closely with appointments every two weeks, sometimes every week. They also consulted with other specialists to confirm that intervention prior to birth wasn’t necessary, and I felt completely at ease with how things were progressing.

However, at Meghan’s 38-week checkup with her regular OB, her non-stress test revealed some deceleration in her baby’s heart rate, and it soon became clear her little boy was about to make an early appearance. The next day, Brooks was born via C-section in a specialized delivery OR where his St. Joe’s medical team got him all settled before moving him to the heart catheterization lab at the children’s hospital because of pre-birth diagnosis.

Life took a complete 180 after that. Even though his prior ultrasounds all looked normal, the catheterization told a different story. Brooks had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart because the left side of his heart did not form correctly.

Thinking back on that time Meghan shares, “It was a crazy mix of feelings. We were of course really scared for our little boy, but we also felt so completely cared for by everyone we met. They instilled such calmness and confidence and that helped tremendously.”

Brooks had his first open heart surgery at the Patel Children’s Heart Institute at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital when he was only eight days old. Typically, the procedure takes around ten hours, but because of the skill and efficiency of his surgeon, Dr. Victore Morell, Brooks was out in seven. Less time on bypass and less time under anesthesia meant less risk.

“Trust me, my husband is a researcher.  Even though we truly loved St. Joe’s, we didn’t just assume Brooks would be treated there.  We looked into other hospitals and other specialists. We would have gone anywhere to make sure he got the best. When we realized we could get that right here where we lived, it was a huge blessing.”

Brooks underwent three additional cardiac surgeries at St. Joe’s and after each one Meghan’s appreciation for Dr. Morell and the rest of medical team grew deeper.

“We have excellent health insurance, and we have a large support system, so we were fortunate to have choices for where our son could have been treated. We researched like crazy, and we chose St. Joe’s.  And with every doctor appointment, every test, every surgery over these past four years our confidence in that choice has been reinforced time and time again. You don’t realize how lucky we are to have the level of care they provide right here until you need it.”

While there were definitely days filled with worry over whether Brooks would be okay, especially after multiple major surgeries, Meghan reports he is now a thriving four-year-old with few limitations on what he can do.

In fact, when she shared her story Meghan was at Disney World with her now four boys – Knox joined the family two years ago. Life is even busier, but Meghan and Ray wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This crazy chaos that is our life, it’s a beautiful thing and St. Joe’s is a big part of the reason why. They got Brooks through. They got us through. And I get to enjoy my family and be excited for Brooks’ future because of the excellent care he had and continues to receive there. Doesn’t get any better than that.”