Braeden is your 2024 Children's Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals Local Patient Champion, representing Duke Children's as the face of our CMN Hospitals region!
Stephanie was 18 weeks pregnant with twins when she learned something was wrong with "Baby B's” heart. Shortly after, “Baby B,” Braeden, was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). The news was devastating as HLHS is one of the most severe congenital heart defects (CHD) and the prognosis was unclear.
Braeden’s parents researched different options and chose to go with Duke, based on other family members recommendations. His parents were also able speak with other heart families that they met through a local CHD support group where they lived in Greensboro, and heard nothing but positive experiences from families who went to Duke.
Duke has a pediatric heart clinic in Greensboro, and Braeden’s parents were thrilled that he would receive the outpatient care he needed so close to home. Dr. Tatum and his staff at the Greensboro clinic were so helpful, caring and supportive in preparing Stephanie and Jeremy, Braeden’s dad, for the twin’s birth.
They were also grateful for the staff at the Duke Hospital who took the time to help them prepare. They were given a tour of the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit (PCICU) and met with their surgeon to ask questions and learn about the surgeries ahead. “It was such a blessing to feel prepared, supported, and confident in the care Braeden would be receiving,” Stephanie says.
Braeden and his brother were born 5 weeks early, two days before Christmas. “It was difficult and emotional to say the least, but they took such good care of Braeden,” Stephanie says, adding that it was the little things that made the most difference. “The nurses were so kind and went out of the way to show our family love. When I went to the PCICU for the first time (after giving birth), there was a picture of Santa visiting Braeden and he had a bag full of gifts that had been donated. The love that strangers gave our newborn son helped counter the sadness I felt seeing him connected to so many tubes and wires.”
Braeden stayed at Duke Hospital until the first week of March due to complications. “It was hard to be there for so long,” recalled Stephanie. “The nurses did everything they could to make sure I could hold Braeden as much as I wanted and advocated for us. I really felt part of the treatment team and that my questions and opinions mattered. They spent so much time training us and preparing us to go home which was important.”
Over the next couple of years Braeden returned to Duke Hospital to receive a few heart catheters as well as two more big surgeries - the Glenn procedure at age 6 months and the Fontan procedure when he was around 3 years old. Every surgery was scary and difficult, but Braeden’s parents say that having nurses and doctors who knew them and truly cared about their family made all the difference.
Now Braeden is 9 years old and loving life. He is full of personality and wit and makes everyone around him smile. “His heart journey will never be over and he will need care for the rest of his life and we are so grateful Duke is here for us,” Stephanie adds. “I am constantly grateful for the miracle that is Braeden.”
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