Elsbeth is the mom to heart warrior, Eloise.
From the Spurlock Family:
Augie Spurlock was born on December 16, 2016 at Texas Children’s Hospital. Diagnosed in-utero with a host of complex heart defects, a team of doctors and nurses were ready to administer PGE, a medicine that would help keep him alive until he had his first heart surgery. His CHD’s include: complete atrioventricular septal defect, pulmonary atresia, double-outlet right ventricle, and transposition of the great arteries. This combination of defects along with malrotated intestines and a missing spleen were caused by a rare condition known as heterotaxy syndrome with right atrial isomerism.
The Spurlock’s journey with CHD started with a series of doctor’s appointments while his mother, Nicole, was still pregnant. She and her husband, Walter, were told “something was wrong” with their baby’s heart by her OBGYN in Amarillo, TX (more than 600 miles away from Houston). That 20-week appointment led to specialists in Lubbock, then eventually, relocation to Houston at 36-weeks gestation.
After birth, Augie spent several days in the NICU, and was moved up to the CVICU (cardiovascular intensive care unit) on Christmas Day when his heart rate wouldn’t dip below 200 beats per minute. At 12 days old, Augie underwent his first heart surgery for placement of a BT shunt. It would be less than 24 hours before he was rushed back for his second.
December 29th was the hardest day the Spurlocks ever lived. They watched their baby almost die, a blood clot the likely culprit for his sudden and rapid decline in oxygenated blood. However, in what can only be described as divine intervention, Augie’s heart surgeon became available in the exact moment he was needed. His second attempt at the surgery was more strenuous, yet far more successful. Augie recovered remarkably fast and was released to the family’s Houston apartment 19 days later.
Because the BT-shunt is only considered a “bridge” to a more effective, long-term circulation for hearts on a single-ventricle path (only using one, main pumping chamber), Augie would need further surgeries. His next surgery, the Glenn, took place five months later. All went off without a hitch and he was released a week later.
In the following weeks, Augie’s team of doctors decided he was finally stable enough to leave Houston to go “home home.” His parents took him on a mini tour of Texas, making several stops, and allowing him to wake up in his home nursery for the first time at seven months old. He did have to return to Houston (but for only a short stay) to correct his malrotation of intestines.
It’s been over a year since Augie has been home on the farm and he absolutely loves it! The Spurlocks fly to Houston about every four months for checkups with his cardiologist. He will need intervention in the future and they aren’t sure whether the surgery will be a Fontan (completion of single-ventricle palliation), or a biventricular repair (an option that is unlikely but not out of the question). They are in the process of seeking a second opinion to ensure they are making the best choice possible.
With the help of family and friends, the Spurlocks have partially endowed a CHD research fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital, in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine. The goal is to better collect and analyze CHD patient data to improve research, and ultimately, treatment.
How Are Things Now? An Update From the Spurlocks
I never really know how to explain Addie’s diagnosis to people. Just like Eloise, it’s complicated, random, and rare. Addie has left atrial isomerism heterotaxy. We first heard the words “your baby will need open heart surgery” when I was about 16 weeks pregnant. Doctors said, “One surgery and she will be done”, and “Less than a 1% chance it’s anything else.” While painting Addie’s nursery dresser and imagining each drawer filled with sweet outfits for our little girl, I got the call. It was one that made me lose my breath and feel faint. Our baby girl had heterotaxy and there were many defects in her heart. Josh, my husband, came home from work and we talked about heterotaxy and wrestled to understand that our baby would be enduring a life-long struggle. It wasn’t until after Addie was born that we knew the full extent of her defects which include: single left-sided SVC, interrupted IVC with hemiazygos continuation, separate hepatic veins, unbalanced atrioventricular septal defect, left ventricular outflow tract obstruction, hypoplastic aortic arch/ coarctation, and severe atrioventricular valve regurgitation.
The cardiologist had prepared us for the terrible possibility of having only a couple days with our sweet girl. As I struggled to understand the implications of these terms, I set goals in my mind for a few things I hoped to do with her if we only had a short time together. The main thing on my mind was to sing her “Happy Birthday”, so in the delivery room with our friends and family around we sang “Happy Birthday”. Another was to brush her hair and luckily she was born with lots! I cherish that little comb 15 months after I first used it. It was the mother-daughter moment I had been hoping for. We have been so lucky with all the time and wonderful moments shared with Addie. Two open-heart surgeries and several procedures later, our daughter is an active, bright, happy toddler.
Eloise was prenatally diagnosed at 18 weeks with heterotaxy, and more specifically, left atrial isomerism heterotaxy. “Hetero” means different and “taxy” means arrangement. Her stomach is on the opposite side and she has EIGHT spleens, among other organ abnormalities. Along with her different arrangement of organs, the most serious of all her complications are congenital heart defects associated with heterotaxy. In just her first year of life she has undergone countless procedures and two open heart surgeries — one to place a pacemaker when she was only two weeks old, and another to complete her full repair when she was nine months. My baby is a FIGHTER and I am constantly amazed at her feisty spirit through it all.
More Specifics About Her Heart
Eloise’s heart rate was 62 bpm for most of my pregnancy (a heart healthy baby should be around 140 – 160 bpm) and doctors didn’t know if she would even make it. She is missing an electrical node which the top and bottom chambers of the heart use to communicate (a defect called complete heart block). Because of this, she had a dual chamber pacemaker placed when she was only two weeks old. She was born with three very large holes in her heart. One was an atrial septal defect (ASD), which is a defect in the septum of the top two chambers of the heart. The other two were ventricular septal defects (VSDs), defects in the septum of the bottom two chambers. In her case the holes were so big that it was almost as if there was no septum there at all. This means that the oxygenated and non-oxygenated blood going to and from the lungs was mixing. This made her heart work extremely hard and she had a ton of trouble breathing. In fact, her heart worked so hard that at the time of her full repair at nine months old, it was 50% bigger than it should have been. Other issues she had that I’ll generalize for now: PAPVR, a thickened pulmonary valve, tricuspid valve regurgitation, pulmonary stenosis, interrupted IVC with azygos continuation, malrotated intestines, and a duplication cyst on her stomach.
Eloise truly is our little miracle baby and is a thriving one year old today. She is so loved.