The Heart of Our Family


It was my third pregnancy. I had two very easy, uncomplicated ones before it. The time came for the big 20 week ultrasound….no big deal. I even remember telling my husband, who usually came for most of the ultrasounds, to stay at work.

We were about 15 minutes in when the stenographer excused herself to go get the doctor.

The doctor came in and proceeded to tell me there seemed to be something possibly wrong with my baby’s heart, brain, and kidneys. I froze. What?!

She told me she would forward the findings to my doctor and she would be in contact…. or something to that affect. I was in a state of shock, so I was barely listening. I called my husband immediately, and of course, he had questions… but I had no answers. I called my mom, who at the time, worked for a group of OBGYNs in Ft. Worth… one of them had delivered my oldest son. She said we should get in the car, drive the three hours, and let their stenographer and doctors take a look.

We loaded up our two year old and did just that. Our fears were eased a bit by that visit. Apparently, the brain and  kidney problems were common in utero and usually worked themselves out. The heart was trickier… something definitely did not look right, but they couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

I started seeing a high risk obstetrician who brought in a pediatric cardiologist to observe the ultrasounds. Sure enough, the brain and kidney problems disappeared.  It wasn’t until I was around 36 weeks in my pregnancy that they had a diagnosis for the heart.

Our baby had a coarctation of his aortic valve and would need heart surgery shortly after birth.

Both doctors assured me that the hospital would be aware, a cardiologist would be on standby, and our baby would be taken directly to the NICU when he was born. While this was all hard to take in and absorb, we were grateful to know ahead of time so the proper precautions could be made. Apparently, babies born with this, can appear to be healthy at birth, go home, and die a few days later.

James Layton Brewer was born on November 18, 2008. He looked beautiful and he DID look totally healthy! I held him for a few minutes before they took him away.

The next week was rough. Leaving the hospital without your newborn baby was just as hard as I always imagined it would be. I planned on nursing, so I still had to get up every few hours and pump… saving it all for when he would come home. Plus, I was taking care of a toddler and going back and forth to the hospital.  My emotions were ALL over the place, to say the least. His surgery happened a week later, the day before Thanksgiving. It was a successful repair and we will forever be grateful to the wonderful surgeon and amazing nurses who took care of him.

Thanksgiving took on a whole other meaning that year and the years to follow. He had another small procedure done the following January. He is now a very active, healthy, thriving nine-year-old boy! He sees a cardiologist once a year for check-ups. He will probably need a valve replacement as an adult. We banked his cord blood in hopes that maybe by then, they can grow him one out of his own stem cells. Ours had a happy ending and my heart breaks for those who aren’t as fortunate.

I like to refer to Layton as the “heart” of our family… and he lives up to it every single day.


Now, I am going to partake in some red wine drinking… know…..for my heart. Cheers!


  1. I so remember that time. I don’t know if Mackenzie was still a cubbie or had moved up but then we were so lucky to be able to teach Layton. Two of my favorites.

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