Illinois ICU Nurse Adopts Boy With Rare Heart Condition She Cared For In Hospital

Angela Farnan, an Illinois nurse who cares for newborns in the pediatric intensive care, never expected to bring home a child from work. Farnan, who works in the NICU at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois, was assigned to care for an infant born with a severe heart condition. The boy, named Blaze, will turn two in May and has lived with Farnan and her husband Rick since he was released from the hospital after undergoing heart surgery.

Blaze’s biological parents left Blaze in Farnan’s care after he was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital defect in which a part of an infant’s heart is underdeveloped or missing. His parents, who live far from the Peoria hospital, did not have the resources to care for the child at home, so Farnan agreed to short-term guardianship while he remained hospitalized after his birth.

“I work in the PICU and I can tell you many stories about the many children I’ve cared for over the years,” Farnan said. “There’s an attachment to these children and their families. You become very invested in them.”

Blaze, who was born on May 30, 2017, underwent his first heart surgery at just three days old. After a second surgery a few months later, he remained in the NICU. As he was scheduled to finally be released from the hospital, Farnan’s guardianship was nearing an end.

“It was quite an emotional day because my husband and I fell in love with him and it was getting close and closer to when we had to give him back,” Farnan told GMA.

Then something happened that changed both their destinies. In March 2018, Blaze’s biological parents asked Farnan if she and her husband would adopt Blaze. The couple didn’t even hesitate. They had already grown attached to the child and immediately said yes.

Farnan added, “[Blaze’s mother] was crying and said, ‘I just don’t want anyone to feel like I’m a bad mom.’ I said she just made the decision as a mom and there was no question that she loves Blaze.”

The couple filed adoption papers a month later and the adoption was finalized on June 8.

“I honestly haven’t put it into words before,” Farnan said. “I go to bed every night and thank God for the opportunity to be a parent. I pray over him every night. He is truly a blessing. As a little girl, you think about your wedding, having children, raising them and instilling in them good morals. It still takes my breath away. There are times I wake up and I’m overwhelmed that he’s mine.”

Blaze's health is still delicate. He will undergo a third heart surgery and may need a heart transplant at some point, but Farnan is ready to see him through, both as a nurse and as a mom.

“I used to come home and would need like a half hour to decompress,” Farnan said. “Now, I come home and he’s so excited to see me — it lifts me. I don’t need that half hour anymore. I just need that face and that smile. I can have the worst day and all I want to do is get home and see him. It just makes it all better.”

“I really feel that he has blessed our lives,” Farnan added. “He’s full of joy. His smile lights up the room.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which occurs during pregnancy, affects 960 babies, or about 1 out of every 4,344 babies, in the United States each year. To prevent hypoplastic left heart syndrome, it is recommended that women take a daily multivitamin with folic acid (400 micrograms), and don’t smoke or drink alcohol during pregnancy.

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The causes of heart defects such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome among babies are generally unknown. Some babies have heart defects due to genetic chromosomal changes. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is believed to be the result of a combination of genes and other risk factors, such as environment and nutritional factors.

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