A birth brings new life, hope and happiness to families. Parents yearn to take home a happy and healthy baby, but for some families, unforeseen complications hinder the joyful occasion.
Jodi Batten and Jesse Pollette embraced their third child, Blake Alan Pollette, for the first time Nov. 21 at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Jesup. Batten’s pregnancy had progressed normally, and Blake was born seemingly healthy. But immediately after his peaceful first night in the hospital, doctors noticed a problem with the infant.
“They first thought Blake had a hole in his heart,” said Batten, 27. “So, they transferred us to Memorial hospital in Savannah.”
Doctors performed a sonogram to learn what was wrong with the baby. The test did show a hole in Blake’s heart, but also, that he had a rare heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
“His left ventricle is underdeveloped,” Batten said. “The right side of his heart has to work twice as hard to pump blood throughout his body.”
The infant and his parents were flown by helicopter to Children’s at Egleston Pediatric Hospital in Atlanta, where doctors prepared Blake for heart surgery.
Four days after birth, the infant underwent open-heart surgery for a stint insertion. Doctors kept his chest cavity open for two days after surgery to allow for swelling.
“We could actually see his heart beat since his chest was opened,” said Jan Evans, the grandmother on Blake’s father’s side. “It was touch and go there for a while, but Blake is a trooper.”
Doctors closed his chest Nov. 27, and his feeding tube was removed on Thanksgiving Day. Blake will have to endure two more heart surgeries to reroute his blood. The next one is slated for March, and the other will be performed when he is 3 years old.
“This is a fairly new procedure,” Batten said. “They rarely see anyone live past 30.”
The family hopes the surgeries will keep Blake healthy, but they predict a possible heart transplant in his future.
“A heart transplant is risky, and we hope he doesn’t have to have one,” Batten said. “The body can reject the heart, and they will have to keep changing his medication until they find one, if ever, that keeps the body from refusing the new heart.”
There is a possibility Blake can live somewhat normally after his surgeries, Batten said, but never will be as active as other children. And for now, he is susceptible to sickness.
“He pretty much lives in a bubble,” Batten said.
Any illness, like the common cold or a fever, can be detrimental to the baby. If he catches anything, the family will be flown to Atlanta again for emergency treatment. The family also can’t let their other two children, Nathan, 7, and Brook, 4, get too close to their tiny brother.
Evans, the children’s grandmother, has been babysitting the older two during this ordeal.
“It has been hard on the family … on all of us,” Evans said. “I am so proud of Jodi and Jesse. … They are such young parents and have dealt with this very well.”
Pollette, 24, Blake’s father, works at Walmart in Jesup. Luckily, Evans said, the store held his position while he took care of Blake this past month. His wife had to leave her job at Pizza Inn in Jesup to take care of Blake full time.
Medicaid pays for Blake’s care, but traveling, lodging and other expenses are becoming costly. The family drives to Savannah weekly for blood tests.
“We keep praying that everything gets better,” Evans said. “This is a lot for a young couple to handle.”