Kent and Molly Warneke had been hoping to start a family for years. So when they got news in March of 2019 that Molly was pregnant, they were over the moon.

However, when most couples are enjoying the “babymoon” phase, the Warnekes got troubling news: their still-developing Chase had been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect (CHD).

“I was induced at 37 weeks due to his poor growth in utero,” Molly said. “As soon as he was born, he was whisked away to be placed on oxygen and transferred to Children’s Hospital.”

Chase’s first weeks were anything but peaceful. After spending 15 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), he was discharged with the hope his heart would last for six months.

It lasted for two weeks.

The day before Chase’s first Thanksgiving, at just five weeks old, he had his first heart surgery. Although it was a “textbook” surgery, Chase’s body began to respond negatively and swell with fluid. While Kent and Molly anxiously waited to see their infant son, they listened to hospital codes over the intercom and saw medical staff rushing through the hallways.

“Our world came crashing down” said Kent. “We had gotten used to hearing codes called while we waited in hospitals, but this time it was for our child. This time, they were rushing to his room.”

Doctors had to place Chase on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine to help circulate his blood. For the next three weeks, he remained on a ventilator, and his chest stayed open due to complications of his swelling. It was an extraordinarily difficult three weeks, with scares, codes, and unexplained bleeding for Chase and the Warnekes to navigate.

After a long road to recovery, Chase was discharged on January 10, 2020, on the road to recovery from heart surgery. Doctors have told Kent and Molly that Chase will need another surgery to place a valve within the next few years. Yet despite the extraordinary challenges they’ve faced, Chase is now an active, thriving toddler who loves swinging at the park and chasing his cat around the house.

During his medical treatments, Chase received more units of blood products than his parents could count to survive the ECMO machine and surgery. Thanks to the generosity of volunteer blood donors in Omaha and greater Nebraska, Chase and Children’s Hospital had the blood they needed—even when the unexpected happened.

At times we marvel at how ‘normal’ a kid he has turned out to be,” said Molly, “but then we remember our time in the hospital and are brought right back to the reality that there is no cure for CHD. Chase will need at least one more surgery, and likely more as he continues to grow.”

“We are forever grateful to the staff at Children’s Hospital and the generous NCBB blood donors who made Chase’s surgery possible,” said Kent. “Without our cardiologist, his team, and many blood transfusions, our spunky boy wouldn’t be here today.”