For Rock Springs residents Caiya Jackson and her fiancé Morgan Brown, the excitement of having a their first child was something they had never experienced before.
Caiya said the pregnancy was going pretty well until about her 20-week appointment. She said that’s when doctors at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County noticed an abnormality with the baby’s heart rate. Jackson was quickly referred to the University of Utah and also Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
From there, Caiya described the rest of her pregnancy as a whirlwind. Due to the suspected leak in the baby’s heart, Caiya was told she needed to have the baby in Salt Lake City so the baby could receive immediate care.
On July 8, 2020, Eila Brown was born. She was 5 pounds, 6 ounces at the time of her birth. Immediately after birth, she was rushed to Primary Children’s Intensive Care Unit, where they could conduct a thorough exam. That’s when doctor’s discovered Eila had even more going on than just a heart problem.
She was quickly diagnosed with hypoplastic right ventricle, left dominant atrioventricular canal, meaning the right ventricle of Eila’s heart was a little bit smaller than her left. She also had atrioventricular valve regurgitation, which means she had a leak in her heart that pulled too much blood back and causing her to receive too much fluid.
Eila was also diagnosed with heterotaxy, which is when internal organs are not arranged as would be expected in the chest and abdomen. For Eila this means her liver is on the opposite side of her body and her stomach isn’t in the correct place.
Caiya and Morgan were overwhelmed with all of the terminology and just wanted to know what all of these diagnosis’ meant for their daughter. They were told she would need a heart transplant and multiple surgeries to correct the heterotaxy.
“It ended up just being to the point where they needed to do a lot of surgeries,” Caiya said.
Eila had her first open-heart surgery when she was only 6 days old. This surgery was needed to reduce blood flow and keep her alive for future surgeries. The family was allowed to return home and plans were made as to when more surgeries would need to be completed.
When Eila was about 1 month old, the doctor’s in Salt Lake City determined that due to the complexity of Eila’s case, the best place for her to be was at the Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver. Caiya said the family traveled to Denver and have been there ever since.
Due to Eila’s healthcare needs, she and Morgan decided to permanently relocate to Denver. While waiting for a heart transplant, Eila’s heart stopped beating and she had to be resuscitated. She also suffered a stroke and some seizures. Caiya and Morgan were growing more and more concerned as days ticked by and they were waiting for information on the heart transplant. They were told it could take anywhere from three to nine months to receive a transplant.
On December 4, Caiya received a phone call that would change Eila’s life. It was around 11:30 pm, and Caiya was wondering who would be calling so late. When she answered her phone, she was told they had found a heart for Eila and they needed to do the surgery on December 5.
“I was kind of blown away for a second,” Caiya said.
At 5-months-old, Eila received a new heart and she is doing really well, but her body is still adjusting to the new heart. Since the surgery, Eila’s gained quite a bit of weight and has been smiling a lot, Caiya said.
“As of now, she’s doing great,” Caiya said.
In fact, Eila’s doing so well, that next week she is going to have another surgery to fix her malrotation. A malrotation is an abnormality in which the intestine does not form correctly in the abdomen.
For now, Caiya and Eila will continue to spend their days in the hospital, but Caiya is looking forward to the day when she can finally take Eila home. She said even though everyone has been so kind in Denver, she would like to see more than doctors and nurses every day.
She said even though they had to leave Rock Springs, they are still receiving a lot of support from Rock Springs residents. Caiya said she used to work as the assistant manager at Russell Cellular Verizon, which is next to Albertsons, and was going to continue working for them after maternity leave, but she had to quit due to Eila’s health. She said her RC family hasn’t forgotten her and they are conducting a RC Cares Donation drive for them. A gofundme page has also been set up for the family to help cover medical expenses.
The family plans to remain in Denver even after Eila is discharged from the hospital so she can continue receiving the healthcare she will need.