Samantha Snell drove to her doctor’s office in Uniontown, Ohio, for a routine ultrasound. The mother of three was 23 weeks along and eager to get a glimpse of her new baby boy. “Getting an ultrasound is fun and cute,” Snell, who at the time was working as a phlebotomist shares. “But this was a totally different experience.” In the exam room, the technician got quiet and went to fetch a doctor. Something was going on with the baby’s heart, the doctor said.
He left the room and returned with five colleagues. Snell started to panic. The doctors ordered additional tests.
A heartbreaking diagnosis
Results revealed her baby had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect where structures on the left side of the heart don’t properly develop, impacting blood flow in the heart. Snell had never heard of HLHS. She cried for days.
“I was a wreck,” she says.
In the following weeks, she learned about the multiple surgeries he’d need from birth. Doctors asked if she wanted to end the pregnancy.
“That’s when I realized this was pretty serious,” she adds. “I told them terminating wasn’t an option.”
Snell was anxious but tried to keep herself in good spirits.
“It would cross my mind every once in a while that everything wasn’t going as planned,” she shares. “But if you focus on that, you’ll be miserable. I focused on being as educated as I could be so when he was born I knew what was coming.”
At 39 weeks, doctors induced her. Baby Amir was born in an operating room packed with a dozen doctors. Snell caught a glimpse of his face before doctors connected him to an incubator, heart monitors and two intravenous lines to deliver medications.
Amir was transferred to a children’s hospital. Snell was devastated she couldn’t ride with him in the ambulance because of COVID-19 pandemic rules. She followed in her car, crying the whole way. Two days later, he was transferred again.