For the Hutchinson family, their lives have been turned upside down and back again.
“It’s just a brand new world,” says Teri Hutchinson, mother of Baby Britton who underwent a heart transplant on Sept. 3.
Britton was born on May 13 of this year with a rare congenital heart defect called pulmonary artesia, meaning the right ventricle of her heart did not develop normally.
Because her parents Colin and Teri knew of her condition before she was born, they travelled to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton where Britton could receive specialized cardiac care.
When it was discovered that corrective surgery would be too risky for her, she was put on the transplant list. Her parents had no idea how long they might have to wait.
“It was in the beginning the worst case scenario to us, something you don’t even want to consider,” Teri told the News Monday. “Now to see how well she’s doing, it’s incredible, it’s definitely the best route for her.”
They received the call they’d been waiting for on Sept. 2.
“We were at the hospital, because we’d been admitted at the hospital all summer. We were just packing up to go for a five-hour pass for the day.”
Less than 12 hours later, Britton was undergoing surgery.
Wrote Teri on Facebook on Sept. 4:
“The transplant and surgical teams worked through the night performing the miraculous procedure. The healthy new heart seems to be a very good fit and everyone involved is over the moon with how well she is doing. The heart could not have come at a more brilliant time, as little did anyone know Britton’s shunt was clotting again and her stats were dropping moments before the surgery began! Words cannot explain our feelings and emotions at this time. We are overwhelmed and excited as a weight has been lifted.
“Britton’s colour is like night and day and she looks like a whole new baby already,” she says.
“She was extubated less than 11 hours post surgery and her lungs have been working on their own perfectly ever since.”
Britton’s speedy recovery hasn’t slowed down.
On Thursday, Sept. 17, two weeks to the day from her transplant surgery, she was released from hospital.
She and her parents and big sister Ayla must remain in Edmonton, however.
“It’s a crazy new life – we still have to be in Edmonton for quite some time,” Teri says, explaining there are medical appointments every day and blood work to be done. “They have to see that the anti-rejection medication is stabilizing.”
The family must take extra precautions so that Britton can be protected from infections and viruses. She said if anyone is at all under the weather, they can’t be allowed to visit.
“She could be readmitted in the first couple of years to get rehydrated to catch up on fluids. She is always at risk, she has a suppressed immune system for the rest of her life.”
And the heart won’t last forever, Teri says.
“The thing that’s hard for people to understand, myself included, is it isn’t a cure. A good heart should last her around 20 years, that’s what the statistics are for pediatric transplants,” she says, noting the stats are from 20 years ago. “Medicine has come a long way since then… It will get her a lot further than her old sick heart.”
The Hutchinsons continue to be extremely grateful for the incredible support they’ve received.
“We just want to continue thanking everyone for the amazing support. It has really helped us a lot. I couldn’t imagine going through this alone,” Teri says, adding that the family is still getting cards from people they’ve never met.
They will continue to be grateful for all the support, and for their baby’s good health.
“She’s a thriving normal four-month-old baby right now,” says Teri. “If you walked past her on the street you’d never know.”
Nikki Stelmak, a close friend of the Hutchinsons, has been overseeing fundraising efforts and providing updates. Online donations in the form of e-transfers can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those wishing to make an anonymous donation can do so by contacting Stelmak directly, either through Facebook or at 250-803-0059. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/BabyBritton/.