Jessie and Harriett Lough, with their daughter, 2-year-old Elizabeth, and son, 5-month-old Luke, held by Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank, at right, accept a Mayoral Proclamation proclaiming the week of Feb. 7-14, 2014, as Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week in Anderson County. Photo courtesy of Anderson County Government.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (submitted) -- The Lough family never imagined they would have a baby with life-threatening health problems, but they do. And, they consider it a blessing.
But they want their community to have a better understanding of the serious impacts that congenital heart defects can have, and hopefully raise awareness about the need for more medical research.
Harriett and Jessie Lough, of Clinton, found out when Harriett was 18 weeks pregnant that their baby would be born with congenital heart defects.
Baby Luke, who is five months old, has several congenital heart defects, including Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome – the left side of Luke’s heart is underdeveloped – and Transposition of the Great Arteries, in which the two large arteries that carry blood out of the heart are abnormally connected to the muscle.
“Everything is pumping out of the right ventricle,” Jessie Lough explained. “They thought he was going to have spina bifida, and during the test to rule that out at 18 weeks gestation, we found out about his heart defects,” mom, Harriett, added.
At birth, doctors gave baby Luke a 40-percent chance of survival, according to his dad. Luke is one of up to 40,000 babies in the United States who are born each year with congenital heart defects.
Luke, who currently weighs just 10 pounds, doesn’t need oxygen to breathe and he didn’t need the first surgical procedure most babies with HLHS usually require within days of their births. But he does have to be tube-fed – a GI tube feeds formula directly into his small intestine. And, he has to be monitored regularly for any signs of trouble.
One day soon, Luke will require a “Glenn procedure” to surgically reconstruct his tiny heart muscle.
Luke can’t have the “Glenn” surgery until he weighs at least 15 pounds. Even then, Luke’s young life is still at risk: “Doctors say he has a 25-percent chance medically of surviving that surgery,” his dad said.
If Luke survives the “Glenn procedure,” when he’s a little older and bigger – between the ages of about 1 and 4 – he’ll undergo a second surgery, the “Fontan procedure,” to make further repairs to his heart.
Despite the uncertainties of Luke’s health, the family has faith that Luke will be OK. “As parents, we turned him over to God. Either way, whatever happens is meant to be,” Jessie said. “He is our miracle,” Jessie said of his son.
“God can do anything,” Harriett’s mom and Luke’s grandmother, Penny Webber, said. “He’s brought us this far.”
“We’re blessed to have him,” Jessie said of baby Luke. “We wouldn’t change it, even with all the problems he’s got.”
Jessie and Harriett Lough are sharing their son’s story as part of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, designated in separate proclamations by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank as the week of February 7-14, 2014.
“Jessie kept thanking me for issuing a proclamation, but I can’t even begin to accept thanks,” Mayor Frank said. “100-percent of the thanks goes to this amazing and wonderful family for raising awareness, and letting me as County Mayor, the Governor, and countless others have an opportunity to help them.
“I absolutely stand in awe of the courage of Luke’s family – but most especially, I look to them as the most beautiful example of strength in the midst of suffering.
“Most of us would feel sorry for ourselves in similar circumstances, but here are Jessie and Harriett stepping out in the middle of their own trial to turn their struggle into a way to help others. I cannot convey how much they have touched me. Lives are going to be changed by this family—I know it,” Mayor Frank said.
The Loughs also are sharing Luke’s journey – and facts about Congenital Heart Defects – through a Facebook page they created for him. You can keep up with baby Luke and his family at https://www.facebook.com/prayersforlukelough.
Mayor Frank presented the Loughs with the local Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week proclamation on Tuesday morning when the family visited the County Mayor’s office.