HOUSTON - A mom from Katy sure is looking forward to Mother's Day this weekend.
She had to undergo emergency surgery during her pregnancy a few months ago and didn't know if she or her baby would survive, but her medical team at UT Health Houston and Memorial Hermann put serious plans in place to make sure they both did.
Juno Evans cherishes every moment with her baby, Jaxon.
"He's my entire world, I'd be lost without him," exclaims Juno.
Juno didn't know if she would ever get to meet her precious little one
"I wrote letters before we left the house (to go to the hospital) to both of them (son and husband) and it was hard. I told them I love them and I'm sorry I'm not here. Told them to take care of each other, but I'm still here, so we tossed those letters away," says an emotional Juno.
Juno was born with several serious heart problems that resurfaced when she got pregnant.
"When I was about two months old, my mom was giving me a bath and I turned blue. So, they had to rush me to the hospital and that's when we found out what was going on. They found out that I had the aortic valve stenosis, the aortic coarctation and advanced cuspid aortic valve. So none of that is good," explains Juno.
Juno underwent multiple surgeries during her childhood, and everything seemed fine, so she stopped her check-ups at 18. Fast forward almost a decade.
"I got pregnant last year and said, let's go make sure everything is okay, just to be safe," states Juno.
Unfortunately, doctors informed her that her heart was far from okay. She was five months pregnant and needed open heart surgery. That was risky for mom and baby, so vascular surgeon, Dr. Rana Afifi with UTHealth Memorial Hermann, helped put together an entire team to make potentially life-saving decisions, for both of them. She developed an actual program to help moms with complicated pregnancies.
"It's never one person's job. It's a multi-disciplinary approach, meaning that it's multiple specialties in medicine, but also multiple roles. So, it's also physicians and genetic counselors and nurses and at some point, it's also social workers," explains Dr. Afifi.
The team decided to temporarily repair Juno's faulty heart valve, then after her baby was born, they would replace the valve. The stats for the procedures were scary.
"Either one had a 50% chance of losing my son, so that was extremely hard for both of us, me, and my husband," says Juno. All she could think about was her unborn baby.
Her nurse recorded his heartbeat before her surgery, and now she gets to see it every day in a special painting in Jaxon's room. Doctors were forced to take him a few months prematurely at 32 weeks, to help protect his mother's heart.
"We also had to be prepared as a heart surgery team to go on the heart-lung machine, if her heart did start to fail during the delivery of her child, but fortunately for her, that all went very well, very smooth," says Dr. Anthony Estrera. He's with UTHealth and the Co-Medical Director of Heart & Vascular Institute at Memorial Hermann.
Juno recovered in the hospital for a few days after her C-section, then it was time for open-heart surgery.
"It was nerve-wracking thinking that might be the last time I get to hold my son, talk to him, tell him I love him, so the night before we went to NICU, told him ‘I love you, be good for your daddy if I'm not here,'" states Juno. But she's here. All went well.
"It's a high likelihood she'll be fine for many, many years to come and can live, in my opinion, a pretty normal life," says Dr. Estrera.
Juno's loving husband couldn't be more thankful.
"The fact that she's here is phenomenal. Could've been that it wasn't - sometimes you have to put faith in the right people and the doctors did their job," says James.
Now Juno can enjoy her lifelong dream and new job of being a mom.
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