The Kirk family was looking forward to taking their first-born, Reese, home to her Winnie the Pooh nursery, but instead the newborn was taken to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital's operating room for cardiac surgery.
"You just don't expect it," said Reese's mother Shannon Kirk, "You expect to have your baby and friends and family come and visit, and then you expect to take her home."
Numerous valves and pumping systems in Reese's heart were either underdeveloped or not developed at all. On top of that, doctors say she had a hole in her heart.
Before she was five months old, Reese underwent four cardiac surgeries including open heart surgery.
"If you're able to fix the baby's heart when they are less than four-months of age, the baby actually develops and grows with very little scarring in the heart," said Dr. Chris Knott-Craig, Chief of Pediatric Surgery at Le Bonheur, "That allows them to grow up and lead a fairly normal life."
Along with medical treatments, like fusions of morphine, to help the children stay pain-free in the Cardiovascular ICU, Dr. Knott-Craig utilizes the five senses in the heart healing process. For example, he asked Shannon to bring in a shirt to set by Reese's head as she woke up after surgery.
"The children recovering from heart surgery, they don't cry, they're not anxious, they're not fussy," he said, "It makes a very beautiful experience not only for the babies but for the families that take care of the babies."
It's this from-the-heart treatment for Reese that the Kirk family said made the difference in not only their newborn's treatment but also their own. Shannon feared her daughter may not survive.
"He (Dr. Knott-Craig) came in and I think it was after her first surgery and he put his hand on her head and he said, ‘You're going to be okay.' and that right there just really gave me hope to know she was going to make it and be okay," recalled Shannon, "That moment right there, that was my hope. That was our hope."
Now reaching one year old, Reese is bubbly and curious like any other one-year-old should be.
The Kirks keep in contact with Dr. Knott-Craig and the entire CVICU staff, sending pictures of Reese. After going through the heart wrenching journey alongside the Kirks, the doctors and nurses there are now a part of the family.
"When you go through something so traumatic like this to have the doctors and nurses, they care about you and your baby and your family as much as they did," said Shannon, "That's really what gives you the "hope.
Reese's grandmother said they felt God inside Le Bonheur Children's Hospital and in the hands of the surgeons.
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