Handing your baby over to a surgeon for open heart surgery has one of the hardest thing for parents to do. That’s what Angela Poole and Lance Shultz will be doing on Jan. 24, when their 5.5-month-old baby Hugo goes in for surgery at Vancouver Children’s Hospital.
“We feel like we couldn’t be at a better place. It’s just handing your own baby over when it’s that time that’s going to be hard,” said Angela.
“I’m mostly OK with what’s going on, but I know when the time comes and I have to go like this,” said Lance, gesturing as if he was handing Hugo over. “There’s no warranties. Please come back.”
Hugo was born a healthy nine pounds – amongst the 90th percentile of babies. However, it didn’t take long for his parents to notice something was wrong. First, they noticed a murmur in his heart. Then they saw other signs of underdevelopment; now he is in the bottom third of infants in terms of weight.
“He wasn’t gaining weight like he should and when you hold him you could feel his heart,” said Angela. “It just feels like a rattling can.”
They took him to see a pediatrician in Vernon but after doing their own research, they decided to go the Vancouver Children’s Hospital. There, they learned he had congestive heart failure and fluid build-up in his lungs. Essentially, it means the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of his body, so it has to work twice as hard to meet the body’s needs.
“He can’t really do anything that these babies do at this age because he’s already running a marathon just hanging out,” said Angela.
Added Lance: “The biggest issue is if his heart gets really pumping then it over-pressurizes his lungs and his lungs start filling up with water.”
Hugo is scheduled for open heart surgery in Vancouver on Jan. 24. In the meantime, his parents are trying to keep things as normal as possible for him.
“Keep him rested, well fed. I was thinking, if he were five, I wouldn’t want to alarm him by making a big deal of a massive surgery,” said Angela. “We’re trying to stay strong for him, stay positive and keep things pretty normal.”
They’ve also been preparing themselves for the surgery, for handing over their new born to the surgeon. Lance said he watched a video on YouTube so he would know what is going to happen. Their older son Baron, 5, has been staying home from school to make sure he doesn’t spread any germs. The doctor conducting the surgery performs about 200 of them every year, Angela said.
“He’s going to get his little surgery and he’s a strong little guy and he’ll pull through,” she said.
Added Lance: “The only reason we call it a little surgery is because he’s little.”
They are also getting support from the community, who have started up an account at the Revelstoke Credit Union and are hosting a Punk Rock Bingo fundraiser at the Big Eddy Pub tonight, Jan. 11, at 9 p.m.
“Revelstoke, we’ve made it our home and it’s overwhelming. The community has been unbelievable, I just had no idea,” said Lance. “I always felt Revelstoke was a really great place, but now I can feel it.”
The Punk Rock Bingo was initially supposed to be a fundraiser for the Live It! Love It! Foundation, but Izzy Lynch, the foundation’s director, offered to make it a fundraiser for Hugo after Angela and Lance approached for help on putting on a fundraiser.
They are a single-income family and the fundraising will help support them financially when Lance takes time off work and to cover the travel costs; they will need to spend at least two weeks in Vancouver before and after Hugo’s surgery and will need to make follow-up trips to clinics in Kamloops or Kelowna afterwards.
“We’re overwhelmed by the generosity of the community and the love of the community and everyone has been amazing,” said Angela. “We’re blown away by the whole thing.”