When newlyweds Rob and Erin Marshall discovered that they were expecting their first child, they decided to make a time-lapse video of one-second clips from each day leading up to the birth. "We thought it would be priceless for our son to look back at this video and see how excited his family was for his arrival," Rob told The Huffington Post in an email. But the parents-to-be were not prepared for the heartbreaking events that would transpire during the 258-day project.
The beginning of the time-lapse video, "Waiting for Alexander," shows two smiling newlyweds preparing for parenthood while exploring their new city of Cincinnati, Ohio.
During the first months of the pregnancy, Rob and Erin spent their time doing the things they loved -- going to baseball games, trying new restaurants, traveling and spending time with family and friends. "But life doesn't always turn out exactly as we've planned," the video captioning states.
On March 19, the Marshalls went for a level-two ultrasound, which their obstetrician had ordered after sonographers at the office had difficulty capturing the left side of the baby's heart. The ultrasound revealed that the baby had a life-threatening congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Seven months into the pregnancy, the left side of Alexander's heart was not fully developed, and only two of its four chambers were functioning. According to the National Institutes of Health, infants born with HLHS cannot survive without open-heart surgery, after which the survival rate is around 75 percent. The CDC reports that babies who undergo surgery still may live have life-long complications and could later need a heart transplant.
But the Marshalls remained hopeful. "Once we received Alexander's diagnosis at 28 weeks, we made the conscious decision to be as positive and upbeat as possible," Rob said. "We didn't want the terrible news to get the best of us. My wife felt that approaching every day with a positive attitude would help Alexander to grow and be as healthy as he could when he was born."
Though the couple contemplated stopping the time-lapse video project, they ultimately decided to push forward with it. "I could not think of any time in life when quitting was a good way to respond to a problem," the dad stated, adding, "[W]e knew we would love our son and we would be proud of him regardless of the condition of his heart."
After consulting a cardiologist at Cincinnati Children's hospital, the parents-to-be evaluated the possible scenarios for their son's birth and treatment. When Alexander was born in late May, the doctors opted to perform a surgery called aortic arch advancement, which would open up the aorta in the hopes that the increased blood flow would help the left side of the heart grow on its own. The surgery was successful.
Rob Marshall expressed his gratitude to the surgeon whose "more aggressive approach" allowed Alexander to survive. "They saved our son's life and we owe them everything!"
The last clip in the time-lapse video shows the day Alexander left the hospital and went home for the first time. Today, the left chambers of his heart are "normal for a healthy baby," Rob reports. "The condition of his heart since surgery has exceeded expectations," he said, adding that doctors will continue to closely monitor the baby's progress over the next year. The Marshalls hope that their story can provide "a road map for other parents in similar circumstances."
"Being a parent has been an amazing journey for us," the father declared. "It's so rewarding to be able to watch Alexander grow and develop over the past 12 weeks. We are so thankful that Alexander's heart was repaired and that, barring the unforeseen, he will be able to have a normal and healthy life!"