“Miracle Baby” Born to Woman With Half a Heart

A baby born to a Maryland mom is being hailed as a miracle because of his mom's rare heart condition, and the unlikely success of his birth.

New mom Shanelle Ragin was born with a single ventricle in her heart, a condition that would prevent it from ever properly pumping blood — but her congenital defect was fixed thanks to a life-saving operation called Fontan when she was just a day old.

Her own mother, Terri Ragin, recalled her fear for her daughter. "You're scared, very scared, and couldn't believe that they could do surgery on a little person," Terri Ragin said.

Though Fontan fixed Shanelle's heart, side effects remained. As a child, she had a tough time breathing just going up a flight of stairs — let alone trying to play with friends or participating in sports. She has to take medication for the rest of her life.

Still, the special operation not only allowed her to live but also to eventually start a family of her own.

Two months ago, she delivered Carter Ragin — though doctors weren’t sure Shanelle and her baby would survive.

When she became unexpectedly pregnant, doctors were alarmed. They warned her that pregnancy could mean the risk of death.

"It's one thing for half a heart to function for one individual, but now she's growing a baby inside of her as well," said Dr. Anitha John, a congenital heart defect specialist at Children’s National Health System.

Ragin was at risk for developing heart failure, especially during labor, when stress on the heart is increased, John said.

But a team of doctors and nurses, including OB/GYN Melissa Fries from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, believed Shanelle could survive delivery and give birth to a healthy baby.

"It was somewhat of a gamble on her part and on our part," Fries said.

After almost nine months of intense monitoring and bed rest, Carter was born under the watchful supervision of almost a dozen doctors and nurses. He weighed just more than five pounds but was healthy and had a perfect little heart.

"I felt really proud of Shanelle,” Fries said. “I think in a way, having a baby, a healthy beautiful baby like Carter, is an affirming part that you are a normal woman."

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