Morgan Oestreich - What is a Heart Warrior?
Photo credit Morgan Lynne Photography
Annie Lynne Oestreich was born with CHD and she is our Heart Warrior, a survivor. You can follow Annie’s updated story at the following link: https://littlemissannie580501775.wordpress.com Her mom, Morgan, writes in honor of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, which is February 7-14.
A year ago I had never heard the term Heart Warrior. I was completely unaware of CHD in infants, simply because I didn’t know anyone that went through a diagnosis. When you’re pregnant for the first time (or ever for that matter), hearing the news that your baby will require open heart surgery by 6 months of age is devastating. Fear, sadness and confusion were a few of the emotions that hit us hard after our detailed fetal echo of our daughter.
When I was approximately 17 weeks pregnant, we learned that our daughter has trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome. At our 20-week anatomy scan we were informed that she had a heart defect known as Atrioventricular Canal Defect (AV Canal Defect). Her valve was unbalanced and slightly regurgitating blood flow. This particular condition was one that is considered common in children with Down syndrome. At this point, the only comfort we could find was knowing that the doctors in Milwaukee at Children’s Hospital were familiar with this condition and had a positive outlook for Annie.
Pregnancy was extremely hard after learning what our daughter had to face after birth. There were days when we questioned if we were strong enough. There were days of guilt, and also days of feeling extremely lucky. It wasn’t until she was born, that we realized she was our strength. She showed us exactly what she needed and we never thought twice about anything we had to do for her. I think when people say, “I don’t know how you can do it. I’d never be strong enough,” they don’t realize that it’s not a choice. CHD can affect anyone, and if it happens to be someone you love, you do anything to get through it and support them.
The day Annie had open heart surgery to correct her AV canal defect was one of the hardest days of our lives. We handed our little girl to a team of medical professionals that smiled and told us she would be in the best hands possible. Even though that was true, it was hard to believe them. That day, I thought over and over again about how lucky Annie is to live in a world where people are educated and skilled enough to repair her tiny, 4-month-old heart. Hearing updates of her success and finally seeing her after her surgery was the greatest feeling in the world. Annie’s heart was repaired and she was on her road to recovery!
For us, Heart Warrior means Annie. It means strength and bravery beyond measure. It means fighting for life because life has not even begun yet. Our Heart Warrior showed us things about the world we never even knew. I think one of the biggest things we’ve learned on our journey, is that life is taken for granted all too often. We’ve learned to smile whenever given the chance, to love every day, and to celebrate little victories.