by Natalie McGee-Lester
I was born with dextro-transposition of the great arteries in Houston, Texas in 1975. During that time, d-TGA and other “Blue Baby Syndromes” were, more often than not, fatal. I underwent an atrial septostomy at about six hours old. This procedure was done to only buy time until the standard repair, The Mustard Procedure, could be done.
In order for me to have the Mustard Procedure at Texas Children’s Hospital in the 70’s I needed to be four years old or 25 pounds. A few weeks after the atrial septostomy, it became clear that I would not make it to four years old or 25 pounds. My medical team, which included, Dr. Martin Yudovich, Dr. Milton Nirken, Dr. Dan Goodrich McNamara, Dr. Michael Nihill and Dr. Grady Hallman decided to take a chance and do the Mustard Procedure on me at only four months. My mother was given a 13% chance to get her daughter back from surgery alive. My mother decided that 13% chance was better than 0% chance, so on our first leap of faith, Dr. Grady Hallman preformed the Mustard Procedure at Texas Children’s Hospital on March 25th, 1976.
Mom said the first thing she noticed when I came out of surgery was not only was I alive, but I was pink! I sat up the next day, mom said it was like I just came alive. We would end up having a few minor setbacks, like a stroke and some seizures, but all in all, I was on the mend! In 1994, during my senior year of high school, I got pregnant. Mom was frantic. We went in to see Dr. Nihill, and absolutely expected him to tell us that I wouldn’t be able to carry a baby, but he didn’t. He told me that there was very little data on a d-TGA, post-Mustard Patient having a child and the choice was ultimately mine. On our second leap of faith, I carried and gave birth to heart-healthy baby boy that I named Eric, on September 22, 1994.
When Eric was almost 2, I found out I was expecting another baby. This time, the outcome was not good. Mom and I knew that I could never be pregnant again so I had my tubes tied. In December of 1996, with tied tubes, I found out I was pregnant again. Terror instantly set in. The baby was healthy with a strong heartbeat, so if I wasn’t going to be able to carry, I’d be forced to terminate. This time, Dr. Nihill was a tad more concerned about my right ventricular function. I just couldn’t do it…. So, on our third leap of faith, I decided no matter the outcome, I would carry my baby. In my fifth month of pregnancy I developed, several arrhythmias and some decreased heart function, but on June 19, 1997 I gave birth to another heart-healthy baby boy that I named Charles.
For the next 20 years I fought nine separate arrhythmias, endured cardioversion after cardioversion, beta blockers galore, crippling depression and ongoing exhaustion, but I was still crazy blessed. In November of 2012, mom and I were back at Texas Children’s Hospital so I could have an A-ICD placed. As I was recovering, we decided I needed a new medical alert bracelet. We started looking and we just couldn’t find anything with enough room for my medical history! Over the next few months I put together a medical alert bracelet system that could utilize the unlimited storage capacity and instant accessibility of the world wide web. In February of 2013, mom and I went to a local bank in Arkansas and applied for a business loan. We were turned down because neither of us had ANY business education or experience. In April of 2013, this time with the Small Business Association’s backing, we applied again. We still needed more collateral because we were not considered a good risk. So, in our fourth leap of faith, my mother put up her house and secured me the money I needed to start i.d.mii international, inc.
Eric is now 22 years old. He is a senior at Henderson State University and has recently got a internship with Arkansas State Senator Joyce Elliott for the summer. Charles will be 20 in a few days. He is going into his Junior year and Henderson State University and he recently asked his beautiful girlfriend, Kaitlyn, to marry him! As for mom and I, we are staying very busy teaching our clients how to take responsibility for their own health and be their own advocate through the most complete and sophisticated medical alert bracelet systems on the market today.