Stacy Langford was eleven weeks pregnant when she learned that her baby girl would die.
But despite receiving a bleak prognosis, little Zhoe defied the odds and now, three years later, she’s a happy, chatty and active toddler.
Stacy, now 39 years old, couldn’t have anticipated what lay ahead when she received her 11-week scan. Wayne Ingram, her 33-year-old partner, was also present.
Wayne and her adoring gazes at their miracle baby, Wayne was silent before they were told their baby had a rare heart condition.
The couple were strongly urged to terminate the pregnancy due to baby Zhoe’s Tetralogy of Fallot, a condition where too little blood goes to the lungs.
Zhoe’s lung arch was oversized, compressing her airway, but the newborn not only survived but thrived, surpassing expectations.
In fact, Zhoe’s resilience in the face of adversity led mum Stacy to nominate her daughter as a Young Heart Hero for the British Heart Foundation.
Stacy told Metro.co.uk: ‘She’s managed to shock everyone, all her doctors, consultants, cardiologists, everything.
‘Everyone’s just like “wow she’s done it”, so you should never give up hope and always give things a chance.’
The mum-of-two recalled the moment she first heard the bad news about Zhoe’s health.
‘I didn’t know if I’d get pregnant again – I’d had Olivia and she was 8 – and we were so excited,’ she said. ‘I didn’t think I’d have another one.’
Stacy continued: ‘Then in the scan, you can tell they’re very quiet and we were saying “look oh my god that’s our baby”.
‘Then they just turned to me and said “I’m sorry to tell you your baby has got a heart condition” and I felt like my world had just ended.’
Stacy was 20 weeks pregnant when doctors urged her to end the pregnancy.
She asked what would happen if she did give birth and was told ‘the baby’s going to suffer and die.’
‘I said “I’m 20 weeks pregnant, I’m not going to have a termination” which is what they were asking,’ she explained.
‘I’m going to carry this through and take the chance and meet her. I’ll go through all of that ordeal. I’m going to give her the chance.’
Initially, Stacy questioned whether she was at fault for the baby’s health issues, even wondering if her age (36 at the time) may have been a factor.
She said: ‘The self blame was unreal because I also had diabetes and I didn’t know I was pregnant, so I was just living my life not knowing and not being as careful as I usually would if I knew I was pregnant.’
Wayne is the reason Stacy was able to get through her traumatic pregnancy.
‘He was so supportive, amazing,’ she said. ‘I would be crying every day because it’s hard and I love this baby but I know it’s not meant to be. He was amazing.’
The family was caught in a dilemma between trying to prepare for the arrival of their new baby and worrying about whether they will be able to spend enough time with her.
The British Heart Foundation
Zhoe, for her inspiring journey, has been nominated to the British Heart Foundation Young Heart Hero Award.
The Heart Hero Awards are a way to thank those who are making a difference in our vision of a world without heart and circulatory disease.
Nominees for Young Heart Hero will be acknowledged and given a gift package from the BHF.
No closing date is set for this category, as nominations can be made throughout the year.
Nominate your Young Heart Hero now.
Stacy said: ‘Zhoe having a heart condition was bad enough, but when they said she would die when she was born, I knew I was carrying this baby which wasn’t going to be a baby.
‘It was the hardest thing because I wanted to meet my baby but I knew my baby wouldn’t be with me.
‘So I went out and I bought a lovely baby grow for her for when she was born, and if she was going to be buried in, it was a hard decision, but I really wanted to give her a chance.’
Stacy was about to lose Zhoe during labor and needed an emergency C-section at 32 week due to preeclampsia.
She said: ‘When we were in the delivery suite we didn’t know what was going to happen at that point.
‘In my head I knew the worst was going to happen. I wasn’t ready for it but I was more prepared for that than the good outcome which I really didn’t expect.’
Zhoe was born at 12.51pm on June 20, 2019, at St Thomas’s Hospital in central London.
To everyone’s surprise, the baby looked in great health, but doctors said they were going to put her on a ventilator as she was so small and there was a chance she could take a turn for the worse.
Zhoe was able, within a few weeks, to take her first breath on her own. However, complications caused Zhoe to be placed in intensive care for six months.
Stacy said: ‘She had to have a surgery when she was three months but she had to be the right size.
‘She had the surgery and they said everything was fine but she had sepsis in her scar, which put her back a bit.
‘We were trying to take her off her ventilation mask and just have some time off that, because they thought she might be okay now that the heart was mostly fixed.
‘Then, she had Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which hit her pretty hard, so she had to be on the ventilator and intubated again.’
After nine months spent in the hospital with Zhoe, Covid started to surface. Stacy & Wayne were finally able take Zhoe home, and they were shielding until July 2022.
Stacy’s nine-year-old daughter Olivia Lee, who had been living with her grandparents while Zhoe was in hospital, also came home to shield with them until recently returning to school.
The shielding has meant that the three-year old has only met a few family members in person. So a family reunion is being planned for Boxing Day.
Zhoe has come a long way since her time in hospital. She is now a chatty, and she loves to run. According her mum, you would ‘never know she had a heart condition’.
Stacy still can’t believe she’s got second happy and healthy daughter to complete her family.
She said: ‘Every birthday to us is a milestone, we just can’t believe we’ve got her.
‘She only has one ventilator instead or two and she doesn’t have a feeding tube, because at the hospital they were saying she needs a tracheotomy and a peg.
‘But she’s now breathing on her own and is feeding well and that’s amazing, so if you put your mind to it you can accomplish pretty much anything. It’s mind over matter.’
That’s the message Stacy wants to impart with her nomination.
‘I think it’s just don’t give up hope,’ she said. ‘Don’t give up. You can get through anything.’
The mum added: ‘Zhoe’s story has made me and our family different people because we’ve dealt with the worst time of our lives, but it’s also been the best.’
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The British Heart Foundation Heart Hero Awards 2022
Metro.co.uk is this year’s media partner for the BHF Heart Hero program. It can be any healthcare professional who does exceptional work, a young heart patient with extraordinary courage, or a fundraiser who finds creative ways to fund research.
Shortlisted applicants will be invited on December 1 to Vernon Kay’s Glaziers Hall in London, where the winners will also be announced.
Now, the category judges are Scott Allan (Scottish footballer) and Will Njobvu (TV and radio presenter) who were chosen as this year’s celebrity judges.
Nominations are still welcome for the Young Heart Hero and CPR Hero categories throughout the year.
The awards ceremony highlights the continuing need for funding to support pioneering research, which is turning science fiction into reality and giving hope to more than seven millions people with heart or circulatory conditions in the UK.
To find out more about the categories or to make a nomination, visit the British Heart Foundation website.