Last week I had a photo shoot with Cael. He is 7 months old. I met his mom and dad a few years ago through church and recently reconnected. I'm so glad that we did reconnect because if we hadn't I would have missed out on the awesome miracle that Cael is and his chubby cheeks and smiles.
I've asked Cael's mom, Tanya, to share a bit about him and his story. I'll mix it in with the pictures.
The following are Tanya's words...
Our little warrior Cael was diagnosed with a broken heart at 20 weeks gestation during a routine ultrasound. We found out that Cael had congenital heart disease (various problems with his heart, but ultimately a rare disease called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome).
Despite the severity of the many defects, Cael outlived the doctors’ expectations and continued to fight in his mommy’s belly! He was born March 31, 2012.
Immediately after birth he underwent his first of many heart procedures. At five days of age, he had his first of at least three open heart surgeries.
Cael’s surgery went very well, but his heart was having a difficult time adapting to its new anatomy shortly after surgery. He went into cardiac arrest and required life support to aid his troubled heart. After weeks of riding the roller coaster of ups and downs, Cael was able to recover from the procedure and go home before his next surgery.
At 3 ½ months of age, Cael underwent his second cardiac catheterization and a few days later, his next open heart surgery. During this hospital stay, Cael went through a great deal of pain while his body adjusted to the new circulation of his little heart. He also contracted an unknown infection that kept his little body fighting hard.
After overcoming the many obstacles after the surgery, Cael was once again discharged to go home.
Because of Cael’s condition after birth he was not able to eat for the first three weeks of life. This was a setback in his development and oral skills. Due to the delay in eating, Cael had difficulties and challenges eating. He was fed through an NG (Nasal Gastric) tube that was inserted in his nose into his stomach for five months of his life.
When he was five months, he once again underwent surgery to get a feeding tube surgically placed into his little belly and to have the bottom of his stomach wrapped around his esophagus to prevent aspiration.
Cael is a member of the Beads of Courage program.
Through this program, he receives a bead for every procedure and treatment milestone he has in his Congenital Heart Disease journey. The beads tell his story of strength, hope, courage, and faith.
In his short 7 months of life, he has earned over 550 beads!
Cael will undergo his next open heart surgery in another year. He could also ultimately need to have a heart transplant in the future.
Cael may have spent half of his short seven months of life in the hospital, but that hasn’t stopped him! He is home now and doing very well! Our heart hero certainly steals a piece of our hearts as we fight to keep his beating!
And there you have it... the story of Cael. Every time I read his mom's words I get a tear in my eye. What a fighter!!
You can keep up with Cael's story on his facebook page... Cael's Crusaders: Prayers for our "Mighty Warrior"