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Fixing Broken Little Hearts

When Meggie and Buck Bradberry had their first child, Mae, 6 years ago, the family faced an uphill climb. Mae had hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a condition that required the family to go from Greenville to MUSC in Charleston for her delivery. She underwent three open heart surgeries to correct the condition, all before her third birthday. 

“We don’t have any heart issues in our family,” Meggie Bradberry said. “We are so thankful for the technology we’ve been blessed with. You would never know that she’s had open heart surgeries.”

The family got involved with the American Heart Association as a way of spreading awareness and giving back to the organization that funded research and support that was vital to Mae’s care. But they thought that was the end of their connection to heart conditions. 

“Of course, we had been through so much with Mae, but we knew we wanted more children,” Meggie Bradberry said. “We were told there was less than a three percent chance that our child would have a heart condition at all. Everything was going well until the 20-week ultrasound.”

A heart problem was discovered in Mae’s unborn brother, Hank. 

“They did an ultrasound right when he was born,” Meggie Bradberry said.

The test showed some holes in Hank’s heart that did not seem drastic. Several weeks later, the Bradberry children had their cardiology appointments at the same time. Mae’s report was great. Hank’s brought new challenges.

“The holes in the heart is a very common defect,” Buck Bradberry said. “We were told they basically go away by growth. But that wasn’t all he had.”

Hank had stenosis that was affecting veins and arteries and the flow of blood in his heart. At 6 months old, he went to Charleston for open heart surgery. Where Mae had three surgeries, Hank had three conditions to deal with in one operation. 

Meggie Bradberry said she wanted to be told that Hank would be OK.

“They just couldn’t guarantee anything,” she said. 

Hank’s surgery went well. He continues to have an annual heart catherization. Twice now, the procedure has revealed the need for intervention, but more surgery has not been needed.

“I don’t know how to describe the feelings of going through it again,” Buck Bradberry said. 

The couple now feels even more committed to the work of the American Heart Association.

“A lot of their work is behind the scenes,” Buck Bradberry said. “We feel really fortunate to be in the community we’re in with all of the support.”

Even with the struggles they have faced, the Bradberrys are thankful.

“I don’t know why we had two children with heart defects,” Buck Bradberry said. “But they are the best gift we could have been given.”

Hank Bradberry is the 2020 Little Heart Honoree at the Upstate Heart Ball, March 14 at the Greenville Convention Center. Learn more and get tickets at