BUFFALO, NY - Joseph Pawelczyk was born at eight pounds and by all accounts, he was a happy, healthy, bouncing baby boy. But, just hours into his life, there was a problem with baby Joseph. His pediatrician was very concerned.
Siobahn Pawelczyk told us her baby boy was a bit blue and oxygen was not helping. She said, "they came to tell us that the prognosis wasn't good. He had something called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Something, we'd never heard of." Joseph was basically born with only half a heart. The left side of his heart was basically non existent. Siobahn says, "Most children with this do not fare very well and we were actually told that we were going to lose Joseph that day he was born." But, they didn't. Mom, Siobahn says medical technology, love and prayer saved her baby. Still, the future was uncertain.
The family met with a cardiologist and agreed on a three-stage surgery to save little Joseph. They headed to Rochester -- and Golisan's Children's Hospital at Strong Memorial -- for the treatment. Joseph needed open heart surgery at six days old, six months old, and 4 years old. Amazingly, he defied the odds and after several hospital stays and surgeries, Joseph is doing well today. His gorgeous blue eyes, warm smile and curious behavior are that of any other six year old boy. He is also a proud big brother to three siblings. Siobahn tells us, "He is as fixed as he can be. Nobody can tell us what the future might bring, we are just hoping he stays as healthy as he is now."
The experience obviously changed the family and gave them strength they didn't know they had. Siobahn is using her experience to help other families. She has started a local support group for families who have children born with heart defects. She tells us, "I want people to know that getting a heart defect diagnosis in your child is not the end of the world. There are surgical options and a lot of interventions and a lot of families that can help and want to help." The support group is called Mended little hearts of WNY.
Joseph's family believe firmly in the power of prayer and they hope to help others stay positive and hopeful.