From the Heart: Saving Baby Lucas

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TOLEDO (13abc Action News) - Brian Gutman and his wife, Jennifer, have always wanted a big family. They were excited to welcome their second child this summer, but the adventure took an unexpected turn.

On March fifth, the couple went in for a routine, 20-week ultrasound, only to experience what Jennifer describes as the worst day of their lives.

"I can't put my finger on what exactly it was, but I did have a weird feeling about this pregnancy. Something wasn't quite right," Gutman remembers.

The technician called a doctor, who then informed the couple that their unborn child had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome; a congenital heart defect that essentially meant he would be born with only half a working heart.

"I don't think they knew about my family history. with the first pregnancy I was told it wasn't genetic, I don't need to worry about it, so with this pregnancy I didn't even ask any questions," says Jennifer.

Thirty years ago, Jennifer's older brother died of the same rare defect. Still, doctors were shocked to see it appear in the same family within a generation.

On July eighth, Baby Lucas came into the world at The University of Michigan's Mott Childrens' Hospital, weighing a healthy 7 lbs and 10 oz. Days later, he was taken in for his first open-heart surgery.

Dr. Nathaniel Sznycer-Taub says it was a grueling, but successful process.

"Tthe heart is certainly much smaller ... all the vessels are much much smaller. that adds much more complexity," says Dr. Sznycer-Taub. "Our hope with these children is that the only thing people will know moving forward is that they'll just have a scar on their chest."

Even if all goes as planned, Lucas will need around-the-clock, specialized care; daycares and babysitters are out of the question.

"Any infection within the first year of his life could kill him," says Jennifer.

Then, there's the medical expenses. Before insurance, they will total around half-a-million dollars. Jennifer will be unable to resume work for at least three months, but she may not return at all.

The news encouraged Brian's fellow Bowling Green firefighters to step up in a big way. Brandon Westerman were hired to the department with Brian about three years ago.

"The financial burden is going to be enormous for them, so we thought of the fundraiser, at least to help out a little bit," says Westerman.

On Sunday, July 26th, the Bowling Green Firefighters Association, IAFF 2379 will hold a pancake breakfast and raffle. All proceeds will go to the Gutmans to cover medical expenses, travel expenses, or other personal costs. Then, on August 29th, the Port Clinton fire department where Brian volunteers is holding a benefit, Firelight 5k Walk/Run. Just click the links to the right for more information on each event.

Donations can also be sent to:
Bowling Green Firefighters Local 2379
552 East Court Street
Bowling Green, OH 43402