Erin Campbell was only in her second trimester when she found out that the course of her entire pregnancy would be altered.
At 18 weeks, Erin’s baby girl, Riley, was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS, a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart, as the left side of the heart does not form correctly.
“My husband and I were really broken up about it,” Erin said. “You can’t change the situation, and we just made the best out of it. We’ll do whatever we can for our little girl.”
Erin and her husband, Rory, immediately delved into research and went to three different hospitals for a second and third opinion. They were in search for the greatest doctor and surgeon to give Riley the best chance. Their research led them to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, Florida.
“It was an easy decision,” Erin said. “There’s a family-feel, and it didn’t feel processed. It was more of a one-on-one experience, and we had a lot of attentiveness with the doctors and nurses.”
The Campbell family is from Fort Pierce, Florida, about three-and-a-half hours from Gainesville, but Erin said the time spent travelling was no problem if it meant receiving the best care for Riley. Seeing Jennifer Co-Vu, M.D., the director of the single ventricle and fetal cardiac programs at the UF Health Congenital Heart Center, and Mark Bleiweis, M.D., the director of the UF Health Congenital Heart Center and the chief of congenital cardiothoracic surgery at UF Health, made every drive worth it.
“We clicked with Dr. Co-Vu almost instantly,” Erin said. “We’re cut from the same cloth. It’s so nice and refreshing to have that in more of a personal setting.”
Riley had her first surgery, known as a Norwood procedure, when she was just 6 days old. The operation reconstructs the heart to allow the right side to become the main pumping chamber instead of the left side. The Campbells were in the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit for less than a month when they got to bring Riley home.
“We knew that when she [Riley] was in my belly that she was a fighter,” Erin said. “She’s chill when she wants to be, but she’s a fireball at the same time.”
Riley is now 7-weeks-old, and Erin said she only has to visit the children’s hospital once every two weeks since her daughter is doing so well.
Riley is at home with her furry brother and sister, Brody and Stella. The Australian shepherds stay by her side as she grows stronger each day.
“They are just smitten with her,” Erin said.