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The Hood Magazine

Heart to Heart: A Father and Daughter's Journey

Feb 02, 2022 03:03PM ● By Jeremy Aylward

By: Jeremy Aylward 

Everyone wants a healthy baby. When I was born, my parents learned I had a heart murmur that I would likely grow out of. Of course, they were concerned but felt reassured all would be well. 

That changed when I went in for my 7th-grade physical and learned that not only had I not outgrown the murmur, but it was also identified as a congenital heart defect. My official diagnosis was bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) with stenosis and insufficiency with left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) and ascending aorta dilatation. 

I had open-heart surgery to replace my aortic valve a few years later. 

This was my personal story for years.  

But my story turned into our story once my daughter, Nora, was born. That new parent joy flipped into worry when the cardiologist found that our precious first daughter also had a bicuspid aortic valve and a ventricular septal defect. 

When the diagnosis hit me, my entire being was flooded with emotions that I haven’t enough room to share here. My personal journey raced through my mind repeatedly. I had not even been a dad for a full day. Still, I was crumbling on the inside as I never, ever thought my daughter would have to endure a similar experience. I went through a lot of guilt when we discovered Nora also had a heart defect, as I felt like I had given this problem to her. 

After six months, Nora’s VSD corrected itself. She still has a BAV, but she’s healthy and has not required surgery so far. My wife and I have had three more children, all without any heart concerns. 

Nora is now seven years old and is still as healthy and active as any other child. On the other hand, I recently learned that my valve is reaching its end, even though it was supposed to outlast me. While I am thankful for the technology keeping me alive and progressing over the years, it is still scary to face another surgery now that I am a husband and father of four. 

The twists and turns of this journey have made me realize how much I have to live for and how important it is to communicate this with my children. If they encounter a journey that mirrors mine, especially Nora, I want them to know I will be with them and advocating for them through the journey. Teaching them that there is a plan for everyone; that our personal journeys truly help shape us into the strong and amazing people we become. Even though we may think our journeys are our own, they are also tools to help others. 

Callout somewhere if appropriate: February is American Heart Month. Learn more about heart health at heart.org.