Beating on

Burke family learns how precious life is through their baby Lewis

Lahari Ramini, News Editor

Approximately 960 babies in the United States are born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). This rare condition results in a heart defect. For the son of a science teacher, it resulted in the lack of a left ventricle, fears of even reaching birth, and a future filled with impending surgeries.

During her regular ultrasound check up about 20 weeks into her pregnancy, science teacher Melanie Burke found a mass in the heart of her baby.

“On my birthday, August 14th, we saw a specialist and he diagnosed my son Lewis’s condition,” Burke said. “My son’s left ventricle was completely filled with a blood clot. We didn’t know if he was even going to make it to birth at this point.”

The average human has a heart with four chambers. However, when one of these chambers is missing, it results in the backflow of blood. This put Lewis’s condition in a much more severe category than other children with HLHS.

There were concerns of Lewis even reaching birth, and three times a week, a doctor had to check up on him during the pregnancy.

However, as the miracle he is, Lewis was born on December 27, 2018. Hours after being born, the perilous journey began and Burke’s husband had to take Lewis and transfer hospitals for surgery.

“After his birth, Lewis’s heart had closed up, and his blood was not getting the oxygen it needed. He immediately had to go into a procedure, and it was a success. Then, after 5 days of recovery, Lewis had to undergo his first open heart surgery,” Burke said. “His recovery was difficult. We were in the hospital for 47 days straight after his birth.”

In 2017, Burke was a student teacher for biology teacher Joy Rooney. Rooney, as well as the entire science department and school, have been very supportive of Burke throughout this entire situation.

“In lieu of everything that she and her family have been through in the past seven or so months, they have been very positive and amazing,” Rooney said. “It makes you realize how precious life is.”

On Mar. 7, the staff put together a luncheon with a taco and ice cream bar. Teachers from all departments were invited to stop by for lunch with a $5 donation for the family. It was put together by language arts teacher Amber Ripa.

“In total, we raised $750. Luncheons like this are a good opportunity to give back to the community,” Ripa said. “Last year, our March luncheon was able to help Luke O’Shea and the money was donated to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. We wanted to personally help the family this year.”

In addition to this, chemistry teacher Leah Zohner put together a meal train for the family after they got out of the hospital. Other teachers also offered to cover for Burke’s class.

This was also Burke’s first year of teaching, and her students have been supportive as well. Many gave cards and kind words of encouragement before the baby was born. They also got her a gift.

Despite everything, Burke and her husband want a normal life for their son.

“Lewis is an incredible blessing. He has fought every step of the way and inspires me to always keep on going,” Burke said. “We hope to have him live as normal a life as possible. He will just get tired more quickly than a normal person. We have great hopes for his future.”

As for the future, Lewis will still have to undergo another heart surgery in three to five years. He will have frequent visits to the cardiologist, too.

“He is our miracle baby. His smile warms our hearts and makes the challenges of the last few months worth it,” Burke said. “He definitely changed our perspective on how precious life is. Not knowing how long we will have him makes us cherish every day.”