The Stephens family dynamic changed on May 13, 2016. We were beyond excited to welcome our second child. Another boy! My husband and I arrived for a repeat C-Section and zero expectations for anything except meeting our healthy Pearson Lane. Moments after his introduction to the world, we were shocked to hear, “Your son has markers of Down Syndrome.” On an emotional roller coaster neither of us expected, we relied on our faith to help process the news. “It is confirmed. He does have trisomy 21, also referred to as Down Syndrome.” The weight of the words was heavy.

Unfortunately, Down Syndrome is associated with other health issues. While examining Pearson in the NICU, nurses discovered a heart murmur. A cardiologist would soon deliver more news we weren’t prepared for. Our cardiologist, Dr. Pooja Kashyap, is the doctor who delivered that news. The second I met Dr. Kashyap, I knew she was brought into our lives for a reason.

“Pearson does have a ventricular septal defect and an atrial septal defect.” More heavy words. She immediately followed with an explanation of these defects and how they affect the heart and other organs. It was almost as if she had shifted the burden from our shoulders to hers.

She offered peace and comfort when explaining that Pearson’s heart would not close by itself, and that he would need open heart surgery. We left that meeting confident that this doctor would provide answers and healing for our baby.

Over the next month and a half Dr. Kashyap invested her heart and soul into monitoring Pearson’s health through what seemed like countless doctor’s appointments, multiple medications for his heart and lungs, a nutrition plan, specialist examinations, and test upon test from heart to GI to thyroid. After thoroughly investigating all aspects of Pearson’s condition in this short time frame, Dr. Kashyap was able to present Pearson’s case to a team consisting of a pediatric cardiologist, a radiologist, and a surgeon in a case conference. Ideally, a surgeon would not want to operate on a heart until 4 months. At 2 months old, on July 14, Pearson Lane went back to the operating room for tiny open heart surgery. A successful repair was completed by Dr. Kupferschmid. Our baby’s heart was mended thanks to his skill and Dr. Kashyap’s diligence to provide a well prepared case study.

Our story is unique because of our faith in God, amazing support group, and a guardian angel, Dr. Kashyap. She exceeded the expectations of a doctor. In fact, she became family to us. Her passion and expertise made me feel like she was treating her own child. She spent hour after hour analyzing test after test and cross checking all her resources, yet still had time to comfort us. She shared her love with us. Pearson is such an incredible blessing , and my husband and I feel far from worthy of the joy he brings to our family. There are no words to describe the debt of gratitude we feel for Dr. Kashyap. I pray that every family enduring such hardship will get to experience the kindness, warmth, and persistence of a doctor of her caliber.

By: Ashley Stephens

Photography By: Erika Urbanczyk with Pulaski Creek Creations.