When Marti Gonzales of Cheyenne was just 23 weeks pregnant, she learned that the baby boy she was carrying had a serious congenital heart defect called tetralogy of fallot.
Marti was referred to the experts at the University of Colorado Hospital who worked with Children’s Colorado to provide the specialized care she and her son would need during delivery. All went as planned when Marti delivered Maverick, whose name she had picked out before his prenatal diagnosis.
Children’s Colorado doctors sent them home until Maverick could gain enough strength and weight to withstand the open heart surgery needed to repair his heart defect.
However, Marti and Maverick returned to Children’s Colorado by ambulance after he refused to eat just 3 weeks after being born. The plan to delay his heart surgery until he was a bit older was no longer possible. Maverick had his first open heart surgery before he was 3 months old.
Difficulty intubating Maverick for surgery was the first clue to his serious secondary diagnosis, full tracheal rings—this meant Maverick’s airway was as small in diameter as a coffee stir stick. He needed surgery to repair the rings, a tracheotomy to open his airway, and a ventilator to mechanically help him breathe.
Maverick and his mom called Children’s Colorado their home for the next six months. During that time, Children’s Colorado staff taught Marti how to care for Maverick after they returned home to Wyoming—a 90-minute drive from Children’s Colorado in clear weather.
“Most of the time, you have a baby and you learn to change diapers and make bottles,” said Marti. “But with Maverick, we had to learn to take care of feeding tubes, a ventilator, learn how to suction him and change his tracheostomy.”
Maverick has endured more than 30 surgeries since he was born and will likely need many more procedures to maintain a good quality of life. Today, Maverick has a feeding tube, a tracheostomy and mechanical ventilation, and yet he’s just as playful and rambunctious as any other 4-year-old.
“I use every trick I can think of to give him that freedom to be a little boy, and I just want him to always be happy,” said Marti.