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Cleveland Clinic doctors save pregnant mom with open-heart surgery

Posted at 11:21 AM, May 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-09 11:21:03-04

CLEVELAND — Katie Standley had all the excitement and nerves that come from being a first-time mom -- plus, a little extra.

"We just kind of looked at each other and said, 'why didn't anyone tell us this was going to happen before we got pregnant,'" Standley said.

In 2017, Standley found she had two heart defects -- a bicuspid aortic valve and aortic aneurysm.

With all the stresses pregnancy puts on the body, doctors knew her heart would be working overtime.

"That was the point jake and I sat down and took in a lot more information than we were ready for," she said.

"The cardiologists here in Virginia were fairly alarmed," her husband Jacob Standley said.

The couple was told they needed to have the baby as soon as possible.

That was in January 2020 and his due date wasn't until late March.

"At that point, we were split between the OBs wanting us to keep the baby in as long as possible for his health, but the cardiologist here wanting the sooner he gets out, the safer I would be," Katie Standley said.

So, the couple made the decision to travel from their home in Virginia to the Cleveland Clinic for close monitoring and eventual surgeries.

They met with Dr. Joanna Ghobrial, the director of adult congenital heart disease at Cleveland Clinic.

"It's a great blessing that she went through everything very well and there were no issues," Ghobrial said.

Baby Lawrence was born on March 2, 2020, in an operating room surrounded by a massive team of Clinic doctors and nurses.

"It takes a big team to do this, right? So with Katie, we had cardiothoracic surgery and the entire OR staff, we had OB doctors, we had neonatal doctors, adult congenital doctors, anesthesia doctors, so that's like a big, big village taking care of Katie to make sure her and the baby are perfectly safe," Ghobrial said.

And they were safe.

But a few weeks later, on March 20, 2020, Standley went into surgery once again -- this time, for her heart.

She left her husband and family in the waiting room, not knowing that in the hours she was in surgery, the Cleveland Clinic would shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and they would all be asked to leave.

Her husband was able to jot her a quick note to wake up to.

"I imagine it was pretty hard for her to wake up and not have any loved ones there," Jacob Standley said.

Still, despite the whirlwind of ups and downs, the surgery went really well and Katie, a teacher, spent months recovering with her family and baby Lawrence right by her side.

"I've been spending every day with him and I love it," she said, laughing with him on her lap. "I love it a lot! I think being a mom was always one of my dreams and now that I get to do that every day, I want to continue doing that," Katie Standley said.