(5/31/10) - It is hard to imagine that any child who has experienced a journey like Braxton's can so effortlessly switch gears from chatting about his many heart surgeries to showing off his most prized possessions: toy dinosaurs. But Braxton doesn't skip a beat, and because of McLeod Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Charles Trant, neither does his heart.
At 24-weeks gestation, Jennifer Gainey was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a condition of high blood pressure, and placental abruption, a condition where the placental lining has separated from the uterus. She was placed on bed rest at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence.
Jennifer spent the holiday season of 2004 in the Antepartum Unit where she and her growing baby were monitored daily by ultrasound. On December 28, 2004, a new technician entered Jennifer's room to perform her daily ultrasound. This technician had previous experience working in a cardiologist's office, and she noticed on the ultrasound that the heart of Jennifer's unborn child had a shadow.
"I believe this technician was an angel sent by God to save my baby," said Jennifer. Immediately, McLeod Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Charles Trant was called in to assess Jennifer's baby. Dr. Trant determined that the baby's Tricuspid Valve had never formed, the blood vessels of the heart were transpositioned, and there was also a hole in the heart.
The McLeod team immediately transported Jennifer to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston so she could be closely monitored for the remainder of her pregnancy. The transfer in care to MUSC was necessary because Jennifer's baby would require immediate surgery by a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon upon delivery. Nearly six weeks later, on February 9, 2005, Jennifer was cross-stitching a bib and talking to her mother on the telephone while on bed rest at MUSC.
She had a slight headache, but she didn't want to bother the nurse complaining about her mild pain. Unbeknownst to Jennifer, her mother called the nurse's station from her home in Darlington to ask if a nurse would check on her because of the headache. Within 20 minutes of checking in on Jennifer and watching her blood pressure spike higher and higher, the nurse notified Jennifer that they were going to deliver the baby.
"It happened so fast -- so quick," said Jennifer. "I told the staff, 'You can't take him. He is not big enough. He is not going to survive!' The nurse looked at me and said, 'If we don't take him right now, you will die. You will die...and he will die.'"
Jennifer's husband, Adam, said, "I've always been a big fan of music. The whole situation reminded me of the Tim McGraw song, 'Don't Take the Girl.' In a time like this you can not choose, so you just pray that they both come through."
Adam recalls the minutes before entering the operating room. He had knots in his stomach, and while he scrubbed in, he said a silent prayer. "During the delivery, I was so insecure. All I could do was hold her hand," said Adam. Moments later, Braxton Gainey was born at 34 weeks gestation, weighing four pounds, four ounces.
"Braxton needed a series of operations to correct the function of his heart," explained Dr. Trant. The first operation, performed within days of Braxton's birth, was a coarctation of the aorta repair and the placement of a pulmonary artery band. This surgery balanced Braxton's blood flow.
"They had to leave his little chest open after the surgery," said Jennifer. "Seeing this tiny, little four pound baby with all of these tubes in his body was overwhelming. I was not prepared to see him in this condition."
Braxton recovered for two weeks in the MUSC Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. "He did great," said Jennifer. "And, when I heard him cry for the first time it was the best noise I have ever heard in my life!"
Six months later, still under the care of Dr. Trant, Braxton traveled back to Charleston for his second surgery, the placement of a Glenn Shunt. The shunt would increase blood flow to Braxton's lungs. In May of 2008, Braxton had his third surgery, the Fontan procedure, which shunts the blood from the lower body straight up to the lungs again bypassing the heart.
"The physicians in Charleston were amazed at how quickly he recovered from the surgery," said Jennifer. "The normal recovery time is four to six weeks. But with Braxton, we were in on Thursday and out the next Thursday -- the doctors were amazed! He is a fighter." Braxton has had three heart catheterizations interspersed between his major surgeries, the most recent one in April of 2009. Before this catheterization, Braxton could not play without having difficulty breathing. "He could not complete a sentence," said Jennifer. "Getting up to walk to the kitchen would literally take his breath away."
Dr. Trant ordered the catheterization in 2009 which successfully closed the remaining hole in Braxton's heart.
"From sun up to sun down, he is now non-stop! It is like having a new child," said Jennifer.
Braxton is still under the care of Dr. Trant. "Dr. Trant is like family to us. I call my pediatrician for certain problems, but I call Dr. Trant for everything. Knowing that he is there for us is very comforting. It means a great deal to us that we have someone who cares so much about us and about Braxton," said Jennifer.
With a huge grin on her face, Jennifer adds, "Braxton is our miracle from God. He is our miracle that we prayed for and we have been blessed with. We would not be the family that we are today if it was not for Braxton being in our lives."