This story originally appeared on richmond.com
Six-week-old Greyson was turning blue, not breathing and desperately in need of help. Tiffany Hirsch’s heart rate surged as adrenaline and instinct kicked in.
She had saved lives before as an EMT with the Richmond Ambulance Authority, but she had never performed emergency CPR on anyone younger than 12 years old — let alone her own baby.
She was able to get her son breathing again in that gripping moment last July, but it was just the beginning of a crucible for her young family.
“We are firm believers in God only giving you what you can handle,” said Tiffany, 28. “In this case He chose us as Greyson’s parents to go through this and be strong for him.”
Tiffany and Matt Hirsch, 29, shared their story in interviews Wednesday to highlight Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week and the importance of knowing infant CPR.
“It’s more than important to our family. … It’s what saved his life,” she said. “I hope everyone can take a class on infant CPR and are aware of it. Knowing it is the first step. It could save your child’s life.”
A congenital heart defect is an abnormality of the heart’s structure, affecting its function. About 40,000 babies in the U.S. are born with some form of it each year, making it the most common birth defect, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around 95% of infants diagnosed with CHD make it to adulthood, but it remains the leading cause of birth defect-associated infant illness and death.
A defect was first detected in Greyson, the Hirsch family’s first child, before he was born, when Tiffany saw a doctor for her 20-week ultrasound. They knew then that he would need open-heart surgery within months of his birth.
It was July 11 when Matt noticed that Greyson, just 6 weeks old, had stopped breathing while trying to feed him. “The closest hospital was 30 minutes away,” he said. If Tiffany had not been trained to give infant CPR, “he probably wouldn’t be here today.”
After the family was rushed to the hospital from their home in New Kent County, Greyson crashed again. A breathing tube was placed in his chest. Doctors moved up his surgery.
“We bring patients into the ER all the time. We’d brought pediatric patients into the same room he was brought into,” Tiffany said. “I was such a wreck that I couldn’t stay in the room. I was crying on the floor outside.”
Greyson was kept alive with a breathing tube for nine days before his surgery. The surgery was what his parents were worried about all along. What kind of complications could arise from it? Would his heart be able to beat on its own again once the operation was completed?
The surgery was a success, but there were complications. His vocal cord was temporarily paralyzed. He couldn’t cry for two months. Feeding him became more difficult.
The family’s journey has been arduous, but at 8 months old, Greyson smiles, laughs and fusses. He’s strong enough to pull on his mom’s long brown hair and his dad’s beard. His parents say he’s a happy child and endlessly curious.
He’ll need at least one more procedure to improve his blood circulation. A shirt Tiffany had custom-made for him says it all: “heart warrior.”
The Richmond Ambulance Authority will hold an infant CPR demonstration on its Facebook page on Feb. 25 at noon.