Meet Morgan Smith

The world changed for many people on September 11, 2001, but for Melissa and Chad Morgan, life had already been turned upside down with the birth of their daughter, Morgan, the day before. Right after the umbilical cord was cut, baby Morgan started turning blue, unable to breathe. That same day, she was airlifted by Angel One from the regional medical center in Fayetteville to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where tests determined that the problem was with Morgan’s tiny heart--transposition of the great arteries and coarctation of the aorta. Ballooning between the heart chambers kept her blood mixing until she could be stabilized for corrective surgery at two weeks old.

During that time, Morgan stayed in NICU, sedated and intubated, while her parents worried and waited in the midst of a national emergency. “It was pretty crazy,” remembers Melissa, who was recovering from her C-section and also caring for Morgan’s toddler big brother at the time. At that time Arkansas Children’s Hospital had RV hookups on campus, with electricity and water, and the Smiths stayed in an RV in the parking lot with their two-year-old son.

When the time came for Morgan to undergo the eight-hour surgery, Melissa was especially appreciative of the emotional support she received from ACH staff.

"We had a cardiac surgery nurse named Cindy. She’d just hug me and let me cry, and she’d cry with me. She encouraged me and assured me that they were doing everything they could to take care of my baby. That was such a wonderful thing."

At the age of three weeks, Melissa got to hold her daughter for the first time. After surgery, Morgan stayed in the cardiovascular intensive care unit for a week before she got to start on her step-down program before going home at a month old.

“When they discharged us it was kind of nerve-wracking,” Melissa recalls. “She was very tiny and fragile, with 11 doses of medication around the clock for the first year.” Morgan required frequent cardio check-ups, which, in those years, meant frequent trips to Little Rock. Melissa describes that first year as “constant watching and monitoring. She was very susceptible to catching respiratory infections. We pretty much didn’t get out much. After we got past that first year, it started to feel stable. I could breathe.”

Morgan continued to improve, and the Smiths continued to grow their family. Today, Morgan is 17-year-old sister to four siblings. She is also captain of her high school dance team. As a mom of five, Melissa says the opening of Arkansas Children's Northwest has been life-changing.

"Knowing Arkansas Children's Northwest is just down the road is a great benefit. Getting Morgan checked out doesn’t require a full day of missed school or work--just a couple hours."

"Babies born with congenital heart disease, are never officially released from ACH. Morgan will always need ArkansasChildren ’s becausee her heart condition is different than an adult that develops a heart condition," Melissa explains.

“She’s stuck with her cardiology team for life, which is a good thing! We feel very comfortable and confident in their decisions.” Melissa says she also appreciates the steps Morgan’s cardiac team is taking to prepare her to manage her health as an adult, encouraging her to ask questions and notice any cardiac symptoms.

“They try to empower her each year to be more confident in being her own voice for her heart health.”

"We really appreciate Dr. Fontaneau. I have complete confidence in his decision making. He explains things in ways I can understand and Morgan can understand. He has hundreds of cardiac patients but he takes the time to know who he’s visiting with. We’re not just a number to him."

Melissa and Chad hope their experience can be encouraging to other parents of pediatric cardiac patients.

“You don’t have to walk this journey alone.”

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