So­phie Peter­son and Josh McCullough are pre­par­ing for a baby boy who will need an op­er­a­tion soon after he is born, Rachael Comer re­ports.

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

So­phie Peter­son and Josh McCullough are pre­par­ing for their first baby, and heart surgery.

The Ti­maru cou­ple, both 19, are ex­pect­ing a baby boy in about seven weeks; child who will be born with the same heart con­di­tion Peter­son has, mean­ing he will re­quire open heart surgery within 24 hours of birth.

While the prospect is a scary one, the cou­ple say they are in good hands and are ex­cited about wel­com­ing their son - a child they never thought they could have,

‘‘Due to all the med­i­ca­tions I was on as a heart baby I was al­ways told I wouldn’t be able to have chil­dren,’’ Peter­son said.

‘‘It was a real shock when we found out I was preg­nant. Mir­a­cles do hap­pen.’’

Peter­son’s heart con­di­tion meant her preg­nancy had been closely mon­i­tored at Ti­maru and Christchurch hos­pi­tals.

Dur­ing a reg­u­lar scan it was dis­cov­ered her baby had the same con­di­tion as her.

The nor­mal aorta should have a 3mm gap. The cou­ple’s child has a 1.7mm gap re­strict­ing blood flow in and out of the heart.

The pair said this would need to be sur­gi­cally fixed through open heart surgery.

Peter­son will travel to Auck­land hos­pi­tal at 37 weeks preg­nant and be mon­i­tored in the lead up to de­liv­ery.

‘‘If I go over they will in­duce me,’’ she said.

‘‘It is very daunt­ing but we know we are in the best pos­si­ble care.’’

Peter­son is us­ing her own ex­pe­ri­ences as a com­fort dur­ing her preg­nancy.

‘‘I had the ex­act same thing as my baby when I was born but they didn’t know what I had un­til I was five weeks old,’’ she said.

‘‘I was flown up to Auck­land, from Ti­maru, a few hours later.

‘‘I was tube-fed for a few years and mon­i­tored by Auck­land hos­pi­tal un­til I was 13.’’

Peter­son said when she had dis­cov­ered she was preg­nant she had known there would be a pos­si­bil­ity her child would also have a heart con­di­tion.

‘‘It’s scary as I know what I went through but 19 years later, look at the sci­ence and what can be done.’’

Not be­ing able to hold her baby straight away was some­thing Peter­son said she wasn’t look­ing for­ward to.

‘‘It’s quite daunt­ing to know as soon as the baby is born we won’t do the nor­mal things like hold him straight away.’’

The fam­ily could be in Auck­land for up to three months, de­pend­ing on the baby’s health, they said.

McCullough works for New Zealand Pet Foods. He praised his em­ploy­ers who had been ‘‘amaz­ing’’.

‘‘They have been very sup­port­ive,’’ he said.

Peter­son said the cou­ple had met at a party as 16-year-olds and had bought their first home when she fell preg­nant.

Peter­son’s sis­ter Chloe Gib­son has set up a Givealit­tle page (sup­port-for-heart-babys-fam­ily) for the cou­ple.

Heart Kids South Can­ter­bury fam­ily sup­port and sec­re­tary Nicky Mer­ritt said 80 fam­i­lies with heart chil­dren in the re­gion were sup­ported by the group.

She would be happy to hear from Peter­son and McCullough in the lead up to their child’s birth.

The group of­fered emo­tional and fi­nan­cial sup­port to fam­i­lies.

‘‘We visit the fam­i­lies in their homes and hos­pi­tal and have school hol­i­day get to­geth­ers,’’ Mer­ritt said.

Mem­bers knew the worry hav­ing a child with heart con­di­tions could bring on a fam­ily, she said.

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