Meg Farris / Medical Reporter
Everything was going fine for a Metairie couple expecting a baby. Then they got some unexpected news.
Now family, friends and even strangers are helping to give their baby a chance at life.
Melanie Williams cares for high risk newborns. A labor and delivery nurse at Ochsner, she is around them all the time. But she and her husband Brett never dreamed it could happen to them. The ultrasound told the story.
"He (the pediatric cardiologist) said, 'You know, I don't want to take all of your hope away but this isn't a normal heart,'" remembers expectant mother Melanie.
This will be their third child. They found out they were expecting during a Mardi Gras family trip to Disney World. Their 7-year-old son Nathan picked the baby girl's name, Olivia.
"Just to tell, tell our kids was probably the most devastating part because they had hope and expectations of what their little sister was going to be," said Melanie.
The children were told baby Olivia has a broken heart. For some reason, possibly genetics, it didn't develop properly.
So here's what's wrong with baby Olivia's heart. As you know, there are four chambers of the heart, four pumping chambers, but the one on the bottom left, the left ventricle, is not formed. It's very, very small and that's important because it is the one that pumps the oxygenated blood throughout the body and to the brain.
"You feel like you're the only one and you're alone in it," said father Brett Williams.
In the womb, Olivia is fine with support from her mother's oxygen-rich blood. But when she arrives in early November, pediatric cardiologists will perform surgery her first week of life - operating on a heart about the size of a walnut. Then thee will be two more - one at six months and one at three years of age. Her heart will never be normal, but blood flow will be rearranged and functional. It's a critical time. Some children don't make it. Others are doing fine at 10 years old and into young adulthood.
"My understanding is that she is going to function very well and that she should have a very happy life," said Dr. Al Robichaux, the chairman of the OB-GYN department at Ochsner where the baby will be delivered and operated on.
Other couples who have children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, complete strangers, have come to their aid.
"You don't feel like thank you's enough. You really don't because they're giving your child a chance at life," said a grateful Melanie.
Baby Olivia will need specialized care for years. You can help by going to a fundraiser September 9 at 7:30pm at Generations Hall. The patron party begins at 6:30pm.
There will be several well known bands, auctions, food and Eric Paulsen will emcee.
You can also donate at any Whitney or Hancock Bank to the Baby Olivia Williams fund.
To donate you can either:
Go to any Whitney or Hancock Bank and donate to Baby Olivia Williams Fund Through Paypal send donation to firstname.lastname@example.org
To buy tickets to the September 9th event go to www.oliviasheart.org
To help the Mia Marrone Heart Foundation which was started when a mother lost her child after only 87 days of life to a heart defect go to: http://miamarroneheartfoundation.com/Home_Page.html
Father Brett Williams' message on the WWL Facebook page: "Thank you all for your prayers. It is a testament to how great the city of New Orleans is, everyone in town is praying or thinking about us. I am the father of baby Olivia, and her heart is there, it is just missing a left ventricle. It's going to be a long road, but with the city cheering us on we feel like we can do it! Thank you Meg Farris for reporting on our sweet baby girl. Hundreds of friends and family are very excited about tonight's news.
Meg's reply via Facebook: Brett, It is an honor to tell your story. Thanks for letting me into your personal lives. I hope through my job, more people will go to the fundraiser. Thanks for deciding to give baby Olivia a chance at life. I want to do the follow up story when I am "100" years old and she is having a baby of her own! Meg