Flashes 4 Hope has picked it’s Holiday Contest winner…Sasha Smith with Andrew and Alyssa. Please read Andrew’s story below and add him and his family to your prayer requests. I can not wait to share their photo’s
The “brief” story of Andrew Jae Villarreal
It all started when mommy and daddy went to see my 3-D ultrasound to see what I looked like. I was in my mommy’s tummy for 21 weeks. I could tell mommy was so excited. They didn’t have 3-D ultrasounds when my sister was born so this was a first for mommy. My mommy was laying there while the Tech was looking at my heart. She could tell that something wasn’t right. Mommy asked her if everything was ok? She just told mommy that the Dr. would be in, in a few minutes. Dr. Atkinson (fetal specialist) came in with a worried look on his face. Mommy and daddy knew something was wrong at that point. After an hour of waiting on the Doctor to come back, he sat down and drew a diagram of my heart and said that I was going to be born with Hypoplastic Left heart syndrome. Mommy and daddy were so sad. The doctor asked if mommy wanted to make me go away? Mommy said no, that wasn’t an option. She visited the cardiologist, Dr. “Andrew” Robinson the very next day to go over my options. First option was to do nothing, just to take me home after I was born and let me peacefully pass away at home, the second option was heart transplant and the third option was a 3-stage procedure. My parents chose the most successful of the 3, the 3 open heart surgeries.
My parents loved Dr. Robinson the first time they met him. They knew that he was going to be a large part of my life. Our family and friends were asking what my name was going to be so they could pray for me by name. Mommy was going to let daddy pick my name, but he kept coming up with silly ones. They knew they wanted a biblical name. So the hunt was on. My mommy wanted to name me after my Cardiologist, “Andrew”. Then the same night, my grandma had a dream and was awoken. She went out to her truck in the wee-hours of the night to read her bible and to pray about my health. God spoke to her and told her to read the book of “Acts” because it was going to be an “act” of God to save my life. She opened her bible and on the first page of Acts, there read the name “Andrew”. About an hour later, my aunt Laken called my grandma and told her that she had a dream that my name was Andrew. There it was, the confirmation of the three. So there it was, my name is Andrew.
One Sunday night, mommy was watching TV and daddy was watching the Greenbay packers game when I decided to make my way into the World. I felt it was time so my parents rushed to the hospital. I could tell mommy was very excited and scared at the same time. On November 22, 2004 at 3:04 am I made my way into the world. The doctors and nurses weren’t sure how is was going to be, so they rushed me in to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or the NICU where I stayed for the first 8 days of my life.
On day 8, I went into my First open Heart surgery called the Norwood. The doctors told my family that I was very sick and it was possible I would not live through the first surgery. I went back as a 5 pound 11 ounce newborn. My family didn’t know if I would come out alive or not. After about 12 hours in the Operating room, I slowly wheeled down the hall with a whole entourage of medical staff. I was wheeling step by step in a huge hospital bed, covered in blood, tubes, ventilator, and the dreaded ECMO. The doctors had briefly told mommy and daddy that it was possible I would be on ECMO, but I don’t think they were prepared for this. ECMO (Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) An ECMO machine is similar to a heart-lung machine. In intensive care medicine, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is an extracorporeal technique of providing both cardiac andrespiratory support oxygen to patients whose heart and lungs are so severely diseased or damaged that they can no longer serve their function.[
After a few days of being “touch and go,” my doctors decided to slowly wean me off of the ECMO machine to see if I could sustain life by myself. After 5 and half days I was completely taken off of ECMO. After recovering in the Pediatric Intensive Care unit for the month, I was able to go home to my home January 27, 2010. I had spent my first Thanksgiving, Christmas and New years in the hospital.
I was home for 27 days. On day 27, I had a funny cry that my mommy wasn’t familiar with. We were on our way to the hospital for our Synagis shot. I was in full blown cardiac arrest and going down fast. Mommy and daddy took me straight into the PICU where they intabated me right away. I was so sick. If I would have arrived at the hospital just a few moments later, I would have died in my carseat on the way there. God has a plan for me, that is for sure. During this hospital stay, I was the sickest. My organs started shutting down and I developed a fungal infection in my blood. It was resting in my heart. I had some great Infectious disease doctors working vigorously for me, one being the great Dr. Wagoner. He made some calls to several Universities’ around the states and had them come up with the right drug to kill the fungal infection. They were desperate and had tried everything. Nothing was working. (I am written about in the “doctor’s books”) At the same my kidneys were no longer functioning, my heart was giving out, and my mommy was asked to sign a DNR. I had “coded” so many times, that they thought I was coming to the end of my journey. My mommy believed in her heart that the Lord would take me when he was ready to take me and kept on pushing. After 47 days of being on the Ventilator and the doctors and nurses working hard on me, I was able to be extabated. I actually was strong enough to pull the tube myself. During the rest of my stay in the PICU, I was able to heal, get stronger and start eating a little. After 87 days of being in the PICU, I was able to go HOME!!! It was a great celebration.
I was home all summer and I did so well with a few ups and downs. I was able to grow a tid-bit, get stronger and gain a personality. I then went into my second open heart surgery in August of 2005. I had a few minor hic-ups but I was home after 3 weeks. My first birthday was around the corner. I was very small weighing in at 9 lbs when I turned one. I had a great Birthday party and had lots of friends and family there to celebrate. A few of my favorite nurses came, too!
I was able to stay home and grow and get stronger until the next June when I had by Aorta Stent removal surgery. That surgery went very well; I was home in 6 days.
We were told that I needed to do anything I wanted before I had my next surgery. My tricuspid valve was leaking severely and needed to be fixed. I had been nominated to receive a wish from Make-A-Wish. We then made it a “rush” wish. ” I loved my Mickey Mouse and wanted to meet him. Me and my Family packed up and flew to Florida. It was the most magical week of our lives!! We stayed at Give Kids the World and ate Ice Cream for breakfast and dinner! It was like a Giant Real life Candyland. We went to Disney World and met Mickey, Universal Studios and Sea world. What an awesome trip.
When we got back from our trip, we lost my great-papa of a Heart Attack. Our family did not see it coming either. A week after my great-papa passed away, my great-Nana had a kidney transplant. She did very well and is still feeling good today. The week after the kidney transplant, I had my Tricuspid Valve repaired. I did well for the initial surgery, but when I got back to PICU after surgery, I didn’t do so well. I coded several times within a few hours. Mommy wasn’t able to come in and see me until I was more stable. After 3 hours of ups and downs, the Nurse Reala, went to the hall to get mommy and daddy. She told my mommy that “I was STILL coding and they couldn’t get me back.” Mommy knew something was wrong, but she didn’t know that I was still coding. The doctors say, if you see someone die, then you are able to have more closure. My parents came in to watch it happen. Dr. Harrell, my surgeon, had his hand in my chest massaging my heart, as Dr. Thiva charged to machine as they shocked me. After a few shocks, mommy couldn’t take it any longer. She was praying out to God to “heal me”. She then went back to the hall with all of my family and friends to wait on my Miracle. After 30 minutes of coding and 9 shocks (enough to jolt a grown man) God brought me back!! I was then placed on ECMO for a second time. After being placed on ECMO, I behaved myself and just layed there while I recovered. After 5 and a half days, I was able to come off of ECMO. I slowly woke up and healed from the trauma of the Surgery and shocks. After a long and rigorous recovery and hospital stay, after 5 weeks I was able to go home!! What a miracle I am.
During this time at home, I was able to learn how to walk!!!! The doctors told my mommy that I may never walk. I always scooted on my bottom or rolled around if I wanted to move around the house. I was more vocal, and felt so good. For the next year and a half, I stayed home and became a “normal” little boy.
My sister had always been so healthy. Mommy found out during the summer of 2009 that she too had a heart problem Ectopic Atrial Tachycardia and 2 large ASD’s. Either one of our heart problems are common or hereditary. They are “flukes” and they just happen. My sister had to have heart surgery in August of 2009. She will need one more surgery but she is doing well now.
On January 7, 2010-my home health nurse, Brianne was listening to my heart while performing her morning assessment. She thought what she was hearing wasn’t right. She double and triple checked herself before calling my mommy at work. Sure enough, I had a heart rate of 30! She called 911 and they took me to the hospital. Once hooked to the monitors, I was bradying down to the 30’s every 8-10 minutes. The next morning, I went into the OR for a Pacemaker. I am so glad that I have a pacemaker now. It makes me feel so much better. It is really cool. They can hook me up to a little machine and it tells the doctors how my heart has been.
September the 7, 2010 was another big day! I was able to start Pre-School at Sugar and Spice. I have the sweetest teacher, Mrs. Melanie. The director, Mrs. Laura is so nice too. I am at the right place for sure I am learning my ABC’s 123’s and my colors. I especially love Show and Tell.
I am facing another big surgery in January. I had had some Fibulations over the last few weeks and some hospital stays. Dr. Robinson is trying to get me back in good health so that I can do well for my Tricuspid Valve REPLACEMENT in January. This surgery will be the biggest one yet and I will automatically go on ECMO this time. The chances of survival aren’t great, but I know that God has a plan for me and I have touched so many in my life. I will be 6 years old in a few weeks. I look forward to every birthday that I am blessed to have.
I still face many struggles with balance, eating, my kidneys, my liver, sleeping, I also lack confidence. I sure am ornery though. God blessed me with enough personality to make up for the rest. I am going to be somebody someday for sure.
Andrew Jae Villarreal, age almost 6