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EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – January 2021. Imagine having a baby in the middle of a pandemic.

“Things were pretty chaotic, but I found out with an early genetic screening with her that she would probably have Down syndrome, and with that diagnosis comes some heart defects potentially,” Meredith Cooper said.

Meredith found out early on at 15 weeks of pregnancy that her fourth child, Louisa, would be born with a heart defect and that the condition is not uncommon in children with Down syndrome. Not easy for any mother, but it gave Meredith time to accept the diagnosis and time to prepare for her new baby girl.

“By the time she was born, it was a celebration just like any other baby,” she said.

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Louisa in the hospital.

A celebration, but short lived. A team of medical professionals was on standby waiting to intervene if Louisa needed to be whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit.

“They were able to let me look at her and give her a kiss like any other baby, but they could tell she was having a little bit of a problem breathing,” Meredith said. “So, they did take her.”

And the journey began.

“She has what’s called an atrioventricular canal defect where you have a hole between the pumping chamber and a hole between the two atria vertical chambers and one big valve instead of two separate valves,” Dr. Harold Burkhart said. “Because of that, when babies are born, they’ll often show signs in the first couple months of life of having heart failure, meaning having too much blood flow is going to their lungs.”

OU Health provides the only cardiac ICU in the state. Dr. Burkhart and his team head up this standard of care thanks in part to the Children’s Hospital Foundation. In July, Louisa underwent an hours long surgery.

“With that surgery, Dr. Burkhart closed the holes that were in her heart,” Meredith said.

“Because of those two holes, the valves between each atrium and ventricle don’t develop discreetly,” Burkhart said. “They are one big valve.”

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Louisa feeling happy.

Louisa is now seven months old, and her family is hopeful she will not have to have any more surgeries. There are no guarantees, but their hearts are full of gratitude.

“We are so grateful that after everything she’s been through, she is back to being a happy, happy little girl with all the promise before her to live a very fulfilled life,” Meredith said.

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