Christmas is going to be a lot merrier this year for Steve and Pond Parker.
That’s because their 1-year-old son, Braxton, has recovered remarkably well from open heart surgery in September. He was born Dec. 10, 2015 – almost two months premature at Franciscan St. Francis Health’s Emerson Avenue campus – with two holes in his heart.
Weighing in at 2.5 pounds, Braxton spent the first two months of his life at the hospital, with mom by his side every day.
“The doctors didn’t know he had a hole in his heart at first,” Mrs. Parker said. “It was discovered a little later, and they waited to see if it would heal itself – it didn’t. It got a little bigger. And during surgery they found a smaller one, which was also repaired.”
Mrs. Parker said her baby was fussy, developing slowly and didn’t eat very well before the surgery at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, but that has all changed.
“Everything is fabulous now. He is a different baby. A week after surgery he was eating so much better and gaining weight. In no time at all he was real active. The surgeon told us that Braxton would heal quickly, and he did. Dr. Mark Rodefeld is a very talented surgeon. He told us what to expect after the surgery, and he was spot-on. I love him.”
Hospitalized only five days for the procedure, Braxton now weighs 16 pounds and is strong enough to pull himself up to stand. And while everything is looking good for the family, Mrs. Braxton recalls the fear endured during the months leading up to the surgery. “I was scared because I knew this was serious stuff. The doctors had to cut his chest open and take his little heart out to repair it.”
Mrs. Parker prepared herself for the surgery by becoming friends with a family that had a child who had the same surgery. “They also told me what to expect, and they eased my nerves. Everything they told me pretty much happened. We became good friends. After the surgery I would call the lady if I had a question about something that wasn’t real serious. I can not explain how helpful she was. I still have her on my speed dial. I owe her big-time.”
Mrs. Parker, who was born in Chicago and raised in Thailand before graduating from Ball State University and moving to the Southside, has high praise for Mended Little Hearts of Indianapolis, the nonprofit organization that provides support to families that have children who were born with congenital heart defects.
“Doctors can tell you what to anticipate, but that’s nothing like talking to a parent who has gone through it. I had a lot of faith that everything was going to all right.”
As one might expect, the Parkers’ medical bills have mounted, but Braxton’s well-being trumps the expense. “The bills are pretty high. My parents help out when they can,” said Mrs. Parker, who has bachelor’s and master’s degree in photojournalism and served as a case worker for people with intellectual disabilities before her son’s birth. She has returned to school to work on her master’s in applied behavioral analysis. Her husband owns Duramax Roofing and Construction.
“Last year we had a Christmas tree in Braxton’s room at St. Francis; this year that tree is in our family room.”