Cora’s story began in September of 2018 when we first discovered we were pregnant. On November 5th I had a blood test and we found out it was going to be a GIRL! We were so excited to be having our second daughter! On January 31st, 2019, our heart journey began when the radiologist at our anatomy scan said, ‘The heart appears to be abnormal.’ Those words changed our lives forever.
We decided to transfer our care to University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital. The transfer took over 3 weeks to be approved by my health insurance, so at the end of February when we were finally able to be seen, they ruled out the diagnosis of the hernia. We were so happy! She had a chance! We felt so blessed and knew that this was an answered prayer! Over the remainder of my pregnancy, I had countless ultrasounds, fetal echo’s, and non-stress tests. We set my induction date for May 22nd when I would be 39 weeks.
The plan was to deliver Cora at the UW, then she would be transferred to Seattle Children’s Hospital within just a few hours. She would then have her first open heart surgery within a week of being born.
But on the day of my induction, I got a phone call from my doctor letting me know they needed to delay my induction until the following week due to fungal contamination in the operating rooms at Seattle Children’s. We were pretty disappointed, especially me. I was so ready to meet my little girl. So we waited.
But two days later on May 24th, we got another phone call from my doctor. She told us that Seattle Children’s Hospital had closed all of it’s operating rooms and that we needed to transfer to OHSU in Portland, Oregon, the next day! We were so shocked, this was not what we had planned and we became very anxious.
The next morning, I was transferred to OHSU in an ambulance while Derek drove down separately. We spent that weekend inpatient, meeting cardiologists and Cora’s surgical team. Late at night on Monday, May 27th, my labor was induced. I started Pitocin at 12:45 a.m., then my water was broken a couple of hours later. At 5:30.a.m., the contractions were more than I could bear and I was sure I still had several hours left to go. So I asked for the epidural.
The anesthesiologist began his work and the epidural was finally placed, but he wasn’t able to place a spinal. So I had to wait for the meds to kick in. As soon as the meds started flowing, I started throwing up. My doctor decided to check my progress and I was still just 7cm. At that point it was 7 a.m. and time for a shift change. She decided since I still had some more progressing to do, she left.
As soon as she left I got sick again, while at the same time having a long and excruciating contraction. My nurse asked me, ‘Are…you feeling like you’re ready to push…?’ I answered, ‘Ummm…I think so?’ So just six minutes after my doctor checked and I was at 7cm, my nurse decided to check me again just to see if I wasn’t fully dilated. Then she said, ‘Yep! You’re fully dilated!’ and ran to the door to yell for my doctor.
I threw up one more time and I could feel Cora trying to be born. My nurse was on the phone frantically yelling for a doctor to get to my room. I looked at Derek and I remember being so scared. I whispered to him, ‘…She’s going to have to deliver Cora herself!…’ I knew Cora would need immediate medical attention as soon as she was born, and I was so scared she wouldn’t get that because she was coming NOW and we had no doctor.
Our room instantly filled with people running around getting everything ready, my body was starting to push and I couldn’t control it. Just then, a doctor ran into the room, a nurse helped her gown so fast, she sat down at the foot of my bed and told me I could push now.
After just one push, Cora Orianna Lee Welton was born on May 28th, 2019, at 7:09 a.m. measuring 6 lbs 15oz and 19 inches long. She came out pink and crying and was laid on my tummy. She had so much hair, a sweet dimple on her chin, and the most beautiful blue eyes.
Over the next 2 days, Cora had many echocardiograms, a CT scan, and had to have a medication called prostaglandin to keep a vessel called the Ductus open in order for her blood to be able to return to her heart from her lungs. This medication caused Cora to forget to breathe at times. The day she had her CT scan, we witnessed her during a bad apnea spell. This was the first time we had seen something so terrifying happen to our child.
Her surgeons decided they would perform her first surgery on May 30th when she was just 2 days old. That morning, Cora was wheeled down the hall to the operating room for her first open heart surgery, the Norwood Procedure. At the time, that was the hardest thing we had ever had to do as parents. We prayed so hard for the surgeons to have steady hands and that Cora’s surgery would be successful.
Seeing Cora after the surgery was incredibly heartbreaking. We had to wear masks in her room because her chest was still open. Her oxygen saturation and blood pressures were low, so she was very pale. She was swollen and seemed lifeless. Over the next few days, they gave Cora a lot of medications to try to increase blood flow to her lungs. The amount of medications she was getting began to make her very swollen.
The day after Cora’s surgery, our 21-month-old daughter Chanel finally got to meet her baby sister! My mom drove the two of them down to Portland on May 31st so that we wouldn’t have to be separated anymore. It was so exciting to see Chanel meet her new sister! She Loved visiting ‘Baby Cora’ every day.
Each morning was always filled with anxiety. Things were pretty rocky for Cora after the surgery. Her SATS and blood pressure were still not improving and they didn’t know why. They first decided to slow down when changing the dose of her medications. When that didn’t work, she had an echo which showed some narrowing in her pulmonary arteries.
They decided they would take the patch off of her chest to take a look inside and rinse her chest out to hopefully remove any obstructions. But the next day Cora’s team decided to cancel this procedure because she seemed to be doing really well. We were so excited! We had so many prayers being said for our little girl to start improving, and our prayers were being answered!