Couple learns baby will need heart surgery
- Susan Matheny
- Madras Pioneer - News
November fundraisers slated
A young Madras couple, expecting their first child, were dismayed to learn last month that the baby boy they've named Tristan will need major heart surgery after he is born.
Alexander Hansen and his wife Carly Hansen, both 20, met online in high school and fell in love. She graduated from Grants Pass High School in 2010, and he graduated from Culver High School in 2011. After graduation, she moved to Culver to be near Alex.
"Strong Christian faith kept them from being parents without marriage, but they so wanted to get married and start a family. So, on March 17, 2012, they were married," said Alex Hansen's mother Trish Hansen, adding three weeks later Carly learned she was pregnant.
Things seemed to be going well. Alex found work as a checker at Safeway, and began taking training to advance.
But on Sept. 4, Carly had an ultrasound done at Mountain View Hospital, which was forwarded to her doctor at Mosaic Medical.
"Mosaic Medical called us and said `We need to talk,'" Alex recalled. The test showed the 6-month-old fetus had a cyst in the brain, enlarged kidneys, and a severe heart defect.
They were referred to Dr. Claussen, a genetic specialist at River Bend Hospital in Springfield, to see if Tristan's problems were due to a genetic disorder.
The couple has a notebook full of medical terms and illustrations of the heart, outlining Tristan's heart defects and the surgeries he will need to address them.
Tristan's heart has a ventricular septal defect (VSD), meaning there is no muscle wall separating his heart's left and right ventricles.
He also has a double right ventricle, a small mitral valve, and the left side of his heart is atrophied. "It's too small to operate on its own," Carly said.
The doctor told them it was rare to have all four defects occurring at the same time.
After he's born, the baby would need three open heart surgeries to live. The first one would be to place a stent in the pulmonary artery and a shunt in the pulmonary valve. The second surgery would be a bypass of the pulmonary artery, and the third would be a Fontan Procedure, "to arrange for the aorta to do all the work," Alex said, simplifying the explanation.
"If they find out it's a chromosome disorder -- they won't do anything," Alex said, because the problems would be too overwhelming.
It will be three weeks before the Hansens know if the problems are genetic. "We won't know until I have an amnio (amniocentesis) test at 36 weeks," Carly said, noting she is 33 weeks pregnant now.
In the meantime, they have been making repeated trips to Springfield or Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland for medical appointments in the only reliable car they have, a Ford Explorer which uses $160 worth of fuel for each round trip.
"Safeway has been very supportive. The store manager lets me have days off whenever we need to go to Portland," Alex said.
Plans are for Carly to have her labor induced Nov. 27, at Doernbecher Hospital. Then, if Tristan's condition is not genetic, he will undergo heart surgery.
Alex has insurance for himself through Safeway, but Carly is not covered. She is on the Oregon Health Plan. Tristan is also on OHP and has limited insurance coverage through Safeway.
"OHP only pays for the first two hours of open heart surgery -- then we have to cover the rest," Alex explained.
"And it will cost $400,000 to $500,000 just for the first surgery," Trish Hansen added.
Noting they are already scraping to pay for their rent, groceries, utilities, travel and medical appointments, Trish Hansen stated, "These are insurmountable bills for them right now."
Tearing up at the thought, she added that if surgery isn't possible, "They will have end-of-life expenses as well."
Carly had been waiting until she was eight months pregnant to be able to apply for cash assistance from the Department of Human Services to help pay their bills, and they are now going through the process.
After finding out how depleted the couple's finances had become, Dusty Hansen, Alex's dad, convinced them to seek help from the public.
"The kids have been very private with this. They didn't tell anybody about it until Monday. But they need help. They don't have food, only what WIC allows," she said referring to the Women Infants and Children program.
She has helped organize seven fundraisers for November:
. A donation account in the name of "Alex Hansen" has been opened at Bank of the West, where Trish Hansen is the manager.
To access the Facebook page, type in the search area: Help Alex Carly and baby Tristan (with a space after each word), then hit enter.
. Yard sale at the Inn at Cross Keys Station, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Donations of items for the sale are needed; call 541-420-8906 for pickup.
. Madras Abby's Pizza will donate 20 percent of all sales from 5-9 p.m., on Nov. 14.
. Yard sale from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Nov. 17, in the empty building next to KFC, 1045 Highway 97 in Madras. Donations needed.
. Ice cream social with 50 percent of sales donated to the Hansens. Also the site to pick up preordered Schwann's pizza.
. Nov. 19, Pappy's Pizza in Redmond will donate 50 percent of sales from noon to midnight.
. Donation jars will be placed at local businesses, and Pacific Sun Tanning in Redmond.
"We'd like to thank all the people who are helping with the fundraisers and let them know how much we appreciate it," Alex said.