By Shelley Eijbersen

The day Seth arrived was a happy day. He was a healthy 8 pounds, 11 ounces, and I was finally done with morning sickness. Little did we know what the next year would bring. Seth’s older brothers, Zackary, 7, and Josiah, 9, loved holding and watching him. They loved his every finger and toe and welcomed him into our active household.

From the beginning, however, I noticed things were different with Seth. His appetite was minimal. We had to feed him more often because he would simply refuse to eat more than 4 ounces at a time. He spit up a lot, which my older boys did too, but he wasn’t gaining weight like they did. I was concerned, but at the monthly checkups, he was still progressing up the weight charts, even though it was slow. He was also noticeably a calmer baby, but with two very active other children, I was completely happy with that since I had no idea why he was so calm.

A few days before his first birthday, Seth got really sick. We took him to Emergency at Langley Memorial Hospital, where they took blood work and x-rays and diagnosed him with pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Healthy children can fight RSV, but Seth was having a hard time doing so because he had an undetected heart defect that was forcing his lungs and heart to work overtime. He was put on antibiotics and kept in a special room. His heart monitor kept beeping because his oxygen level wouldn’t hold and he was not improving. After another sleepless night, with nurses and the doctor not sure why his condition wasn’t changing, Seth was transferred to BC Children’s Hospital.

When we arrived, heart surgeon Dr. Gandhi took one look at Seth’s x-ray and identified his heart defect as total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPVR). He was surprised Seth was doing so well up until now. We were grateful to be in Dr. Gandhi’s care, but it was a hard thing to absorb. When he started talking about open-heart surgery, it felt like we were in a dream. Our healthy boy had a heart problem?

However, all the odd symptoms in his first year now made more sense. We celebrated Seth’s first birthday in the hospital as he recovered from RSV. The staff were amazing. There were balloons and a present for Seth. They certainly made things easier for all of us.

Six weeks after we were discharged, Seth was scheduled to have his heart surgery. As a family, we enjoyed every minute of those six weeks with him. It seemed so important to enjoy each one to its fullest. My husband’s parents flew in all the way from Belgium to watch Josiah and Zack so we could be at the hospital with Seth.

Again, the staff and surgeon at BC Children’s Hospital were amazing and supportive. Four days after Seth’s open-heart surgery, he was able to go home. He took a few weeks to get back to himself, and then I realized I no longer had a calm, little boy on my hands. He hasn’t stopped since that day and we are so very thankful for that. ♥

Seth visiting Paris with his family

Seth with his brothers in 2018

“Our Heart Journey” is from our winter 2019 newsletter, Heart Matters. See our Newsletters page for more stories and to subscribe.