“He saved my son’s life. He gave me my miracle”
Like most of us, Lydia Gonzalez is thankful to be a mom. She loves her 3 boys and can’t imagine life without them. Unlike many of us, she’s actually had to face an unimaginable fear, the possibility of losing a child, her first born. It was August 14, 2004, after several hours of labor, and an emergency C-section, Lydia became a mom. With a rather rough delivery behind her, she thought the worst was over. Her sense of relief was short-lived. Less than 24 hours after Benjamin was born a hospital pediatrician told Lydia there was something wrong with her newborn’s heart. It was determined Benjamin had been born with a congenital heart defect called ventricular septal defect of VSD. He had a hole in his heart. Lydia says the news made her feel as if her world was collapsing. Would her tiny baby have to undergo surgery? Would he survive?
Doctors explained to Lydia that in most cases the hole in the heart eventually closes on its own. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Benjamin. Still, doctors determined there was no need to operate. Barring any complications, it was believed he could live a happy and healthy life and that’s exactly what Benjamin did for 6 years. Then, the office visit Lydia won’t ever forget. At his yearly checkup, it was discovered that there were complications. The right ventricle of his heart was being divided in two because of excess scar tissue. It’s a condition known as a double chamber right ventricle or double chamber RV and it is life threatening if not corrected. Benjamin would have to undergo open-heart surgery. “I was told that if Ben did not have the surgery he could be one of those children who suddenly dies doing exercise or playing a sport,” she recalls. Lydia and her husband took Benjamin to see Dr. Redmond Burke, Director of Cardiovascular Surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. The visit changed their lives. “Dr. Burke was God sent. He saved my son’s life. He gave me my miracle.” Benjamin underwent surgery on Tuesday, December 17, 2010. “Seeing my son intubated was terrifying.” He was in surgery for 3 1/2 hours. Lydia says the entire staff at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital was amazing. “The nurses kept coming out to see us and give us updates. Dr. Burke explained to us, step by step, what he was doing. He even showed us pictures of the surgery when he was done.” Amazingly, Benjamin was sent home from the hospital just 3 days after undergoing surgery.
Now, 6 years later, Lydia has some advice for other parents whose children have a heart defect and may need surgery. “It’s not a death sentence. It might seem that way but it’s not. What seems terrifying to us is almost routine to specialists like Dr. Burke. It’s miraculous what can be done. Your child can live a productive, healthy life.” Benjamin is living proof of that. At age 12, he is active and healthy. And while his cardiologist has said he can do just about anything, including playing sports, Mom confesses she’s still cautious making sure he avoids certain rides at amusement parks and doesn’t overexert himself when it comes to physical activities. Thankfully, it’s books, Legos and playing Minecraft that Benjamin loves most. Oh, and he hopes to study political science when he grows up. Future president? He’s got my vote.
Beatriz Canals is an Emmy nominated journalist and proud mom. She has a 12 year old son, Andres and 24 year old step-daughter, Victoria.