The Hedges family: Maddison, Bree, Preston, Sam and Mackenzie.
DESPITE having watched her son undergo open-heart surgery in the first year of his life, the memory that sticks with Kallaroo mum Bree Hedges from the ordeal is seeing him smile for the first time after surgery.
Preston Hedges was born with a serious heart condition – critical pulmonary stenosis.
Within 48 hours of his birth on November 8, 2010, Preston underwent what would be the first of many operations.
Just over one week later he had another operation to put a shunt in the under-developed left ventricle in his heart.
“It was a real eye-opener as our 12-day-old baby lay there; we were helpless just watching and waiting,” Mrs Hedges said.
“Preston had a few complications; post-surgery, he had a lot of fluid retention and he had the breathing apparatus for a few extra days.
“Our boy was ready to come home late November, 20 days old and three operations later.”
In August last year, Preston was booked into Princess Margaret Hospital to undergo open-heart surgery to bypass the underdeveloped right ventricle in his heart.
Mrs Hedges said saying goodbye to Preston before the surgery was hard “more than ever when you know it could be for the very last time.”
The five-hour operation was a success, but after the surgery Preston’s heartbeat became irregular.
“We walked in to see our boy with machines coming out from every part of his body,” she said.
“At this stage Preston was still incubated and the plan was to slowly bring him out of the induced coma and see how he reacted to the new blood flow.”
Preston’s heart rate shot up to 250 beats per minute and Mrs Hedges and her family began expecting the worst.
“We were numb looking at our boy, who had been incubated for a second time,” she said.
“Preston lay lifeless, his temperature was kept cold to keep everything at bay, plus two additional drains for the lungs,” she said.
“It was an extremely difficult sight to see.”
After two weeks in intensive care, Preston woke from the induced coma.
“Preston was woken up; however he was not himself, she said.
“He had lost 20 per cent of his body weight and his frail appearance was that of a malnourished and neglected child, a rather eerie sight.”
Almost three weeks after his surgery, Preston was finally ready to go home.
“A fantastic memory for us was when we placed him into his car seat and for the first time he smiled,” Mrs Hedges said.
“Day by day, little by little he improved.
“Preston is now a very happy young cheeky little boy – we are so blessed.”
BREE Hedges said the support of the charity HeartKids had been invaluable.
HeartKids Australia was established 30 years ago to support families of children with congenital heart disease.
“We felt like a couple of blind people trying to negotiate through an unknown maze,” Mrs Hedges said.
“HeartKids came along, grabbed our hands and guided us through what has been the most difficult time in our lives.”
Mrs Hedges said sharing their experiences with other HeartKids families helped them manage their ordeal.
“With even the most simple of things like supplying lunches and dinners when we were unable to leave our son’s hospital bed.”
To donate to HeartKids visit heartkids.org.au.