A couple years ago, my preschooler came home with a pocket packed full of treasures for Valentine’s Day.

“Mommy! I found all these rocks on the playground for you! They are shaped like hearts!”

Holy cow. They really WERE shaped like hearts! Ok, some were more like triangles…

I’ve kept them ever since. I can’t imagine how long he searched for that many heart-shaped pebbles, but I consider it a grand effort for a little boy. A sweet and thoughtful one too.

Now I’m the kind of mom who always loves a good dandelion bouquet, but heart shaped rocks are forever.

The imagination and creativity of a child is a beautiful thing. My grown up eyes would never look down at rocks on a playground and see hearts instead. Or look up at clouds and see a flying squirrel chasing a three legged turtle. I love what kids can see.

The heart shaped rocks remind me of more than the innocence of a child’s preschool days; they remind me of when this same baby boy’s heart required a surgeon’s care. His heart defect was a PDA – patent ductus arteriosus.

Long story short, there was an abnormal opening in our baby’s heart that should have closed two to three days after he was born. Our energetic, happy baby boy showed no symptoms other than a heart murmur detected by our pediatrician. After further tests and consultation with cardiologists, we found he was already experiencing slight enlargement of the left ventricle of the heart. The opening was just large enough to require surgery, but not large enough to be causing major complications at this point.

How blessed are we to be living in a day and age where not only could this problem be found, but it could be fixed by inserting a small coil apparatus in the opening via catheterization. While we were anxious while waiting for completion of the procedure on our eighteen-month-old at Children’s Hospital in Omaha, we knew we were lucky. This was an easy fix as far as heart complications are concerned.

Untreated, as it would have been decades ago, he’d likely experience heart failure in his twenties. Instead, the pediatric cardiologists gave our son an entirely different outcome. You know everything’s just fine when the doctor says, “There’s nothing that will keep him from playing middle linebacker someday if he so desires.”

Yet in our own gratefulness for the gift medical technology, I’ll also never forget those whose struggle with heart defects took weeks or months to overcome. I only wish there were hugs big enough to console the parents who held children with issues that weren’t yet fixable. I wish tomorrow’s advancements in cardiac care could go back in time to everyone who needed it.

February is heart month, but we can offer support all year for those who experience the journey of heart defects and other heart related complications. I encourage you to check out American Heart Association, The Children’s Heart Foundation, and watch for opportunities and events near you.

Diane Karr

Diane Karr lives on a family farm in south central Nebraska with her husband and four sons. Besides chasing after her busy boys and the farm, she volunteers as a church organist. Diane graduated from UNL in 1996 as an agribusiness major, shares stories about farm life at RealFarmWifeOnTheCountyLine.com, and is a volunteer for CommonGround Nebraska. She also enjoys Husker football, hazelnut lattes, cooking and baking, boating, photography, and spending time with family and friends.