Editor’s note: OSF HealthCare is a sponsor of Chambanamoms.
From OSF HealthCare
As a registered nurse, Angela Farnan has spent 32 years in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois where she cares for the smallest and sickest kids.
Along with her fellow OSF Mission Partners, she embraces each child as if they’re family.
“The good Lord put us where we are for a reason,” Angela said. “We truly give our heart and soul in caring for these kids.”
While Angela cares for kids dealing with all types of conditions, since 1991 her focus has been taking care of kids undergoing treatment at the Congenital Heart Center at OSF Children’s Hospital in Peoria. It is the only comprehensive congenital heart program in the state that cares for kids and adults outside of Chicago.
A new baby comes to the PICU
Angela always wanted children, and it wasn’t until after she married her husband, Rick, that she found out she couldn’t get pregnant.
But Angela didn’t dwell on that fate. She had her kids in the PICU.
“When someone asks me how many kids I have, I tell them it depends on the day. Sometimes 15 or 20,” she said. “God has a plan for all of us. I’ve been working in the PICU a long time, and in my heart, I know that’s where God wants me to be.”
On May 30, 2017, a newborn boy named Blaze came to the PICU. He’d been born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a congenital heart defect that was detected in utero. The defect leaves most of the left side of the heart too small and underdeveloped with just one pumping chamber.
Dr. Mark Plunkett, a pediatric heart surgeon with the Congenital Heart Center at OSF Children’s Hospital, said the condition requires a series of at least three operations. The first surgery usually happens during the first week of life.
“It’s a very complex operation and is one of the highest mortality operations we perform,” Dr. Plunkett said. “Most kids will go home after about a month or more. These are babies requiring intensive care and at-home monitoring.”
If a family is unable to provide the intensive care the baby requires, they stay in the hospital or go into medical foster care.
A temporary home
Blaze had his first surgery when he was just three days old.
A feeding issue prolonged his hospital stay. His family didn’t live near OSF Children’s Hospital in Peoria and didn’t have the resources to provide the care Blaze needed at home.
Angela was a member of his care team. Wanting to help his family, she decided to become a medical foster home for Blaze.
Angela told Rick about Blaze, and he was on board with having short-term guardianship to provide the baby with a safe environment.
During the foster stay, Angela remained in contact with Blaze’s family, updating them on his progress and the upcoming surgery.
“We had him here a couple weeks when we just fell in love with him,” Angela said.
Time for the second surgery
Blaze’s parents traveled to Peoria for the surgery on March 20, 2018.
It was then the mother asked the Farnans if they’d consider taking Blaze on a more permanent basis.
“We didn’t even look at each other. Rick and I didn’t need to have a discussion. We said, ‘absolutely,’” Angela said. “She said she wanted to be a good mom, and I told her she was a great mom and never let anyone tell her differently. She made a very tough decision to do what she felt was right for Blaze.”
The adoption was finalized June 8.
On that day, the courtroom at the Peoria County Courthouse was packed with family, friends and co-workers of Angela and Rick, including Dr. Plunkett.
“It was truly one of the most memorable and heartwarming events I’ve had the privilege and honor of attending,” he said. “There was so much love and joy in that courtroom.”
Blaze will require at least one more surgery and a lot of follow-up doctor visits, tests and monitoring, as with anyone born with a congenital heart defect. This follow-up care is available through OSF Children’s Hospital satellite clinics, such as the one at OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana.
Blaze, who turns 2 in May, is ornery. He loves blowing kisses, the outdoors, music, dancing and knocking down blocks.
Angela becomes emotional when asked how it feels to be a mom, to have the baby she hoped to have with Rick.
“I go to bed every night and thank God for the opportunity to be a parent. I pray over him every night. He is truly a blessing,” she said.
“I used to come home and would need like a half hour to decompress. Now, I come home and he’s so excited to see me – it lifts me. I don’t need that half hour anymore. I just need that face and that smile. I can have the worst day and all I want to do is get home and see him. It just makes it all better.”