Thank you for making me a father



Father’s Day could mean many different things to different dads. It could mean another random color tie you are forced to begrudgingly wear because your kid got it for you.

Perhaps it means breakfast in bed, spending time with the people you love the most in the world or it may mean you finally, just for one day, get the remote control and don’t have to watch Disney Junior for at least 24 hours.

For someone who almost wasn’t a father, it means a lot more. At the start of week 18 of my wife being pregnant, the doctors in Dallas noticed something strange about our baby’s heart. It appeared to be further off to the side than it normally should be. With further tests, they found 80 percent of her chest cavity was filled with a large mass that was pushing everything else out of the way. They explained it was moving everything over to a point that if she were born that day she could die because her lungs had no room to form and little Harley could not breathe. The doctors told us it can sometimes go away, so we had to wait and see. The exact instructions were to wait as long as we could before coming back into the office for another sonogram. They understood that as concerned parents we would want to come back daily to check on her, but we were advised against that. They called it a Congenital Adenomatoid Malformation of the Lung or CAML and wrote it down so we could look it up at home. 

After we cried to ourselves for the first time, we discussed when we should go back to the doctor’s office for the follow-up. The sadness wore off, and we got mad. There is no way we were just going to sit around and hope our daughter did not die and the thing did not squeeze her heart so much it just stopped pumping! My wife grabbed our laptop and we began searching on what the doctor wrote down. After a few minutes of trying to figure out the handwriting, we hit Google with a vengeance. 

It was not long before we had the correct name of the issue: Congenital Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation or CCAM. With that, we found Texas Children’s Hospital. 

Our time with Dr. Cass and his staff included some of the most terrifying moments as a parent. We were given a 75 percent chance of a successful surgery and a slim chance Harley would survive it. However, while they were explaining all this, they were so compassionate, so caring that I remember my experiences with them as only great ones. When we would have to stop to wipe the tears from our eyes, they would stop and hold our hands or give us a hug. Angel, a properly named fetal center coordinator, sat in the waiting room with us for hours after her shift had ended to make sure we were ok.

My wife was given steroids to help kick start the baby into growing faster. The plan was to out distance the mass and gain space in her chest for her heart to return to normal. The plan worked perfectly! After two months of close monitoring, she was finally out of trouble and the mass was only 20 percent of her chest at birth. At 5:10 p.m. on March 16, 2012, I became a father thanks to the knowledge, skill and compassion of the miraculous souls at Texas Children’s.

This Father’s Day, Harley is now 4 years old. She loves to sing and dance and has been invited to try out for the dance company in our hometown even though she is a year younger than the minimum age for the company. She is our joy.

I get to watch my little girl dance and sing, laugh and play because of some truly amazing people at Texas Children’s. Father’s Day may mean a lot of different things to different dads, but to me it is a day to remember and give whole hearted thanks to the people who helped fight for Harley. So it is with tears in our eyes that my wife and I say thank you so much. Thank you for giving us so much joy and happiness. Thank you so much for making our dreams come true. Thank you so much for saving the lives of so many children and making this world a better and happier place. What you do is a miracle! Thank you so much for making me a father.

With everything in my heart, thank you!

Hunter Blake