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Check Out Tom & Kat Hansen’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tom & Kat Hansen.

Hi Tom & Kat, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start, maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
In 2014, our lives were radically changed when our son, Harding, was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) during a routine ultrasound appointment. We initially believed the hardships that awaited would surely destroy us, but we made the imperative decision to use the hardships CHD brought to our family’s life to positively transform us. Each open heart surgery, medical complication, and lengthy hospital stay taught us a powerful lesson, and we discovered a life that is richer and more fulfilling than we could have ever imagined. Now we have a passion to equip and encourage other parents of children with CHD to have the hope and courage it takes to navigate the difficult terrain of the CHD journey.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has certainly been a challenging road. Harding’s diagnosis was a huge shock, and we were unsure how to navigate raising our daughter Audrey, and Harding, in the midst of that circumstance. He was diagnosed at 22 weeks gestation, so we had a few months of fear and anxiety preparing for his birth that were extremely difficult. We tried our best to prepare, but CHD parents are often under-served and under-resourced.

Here are just a couple of the medical complications that have be really difficult:

After Harding was born, he had his first open heart surgery (called the Norwood) at 10 days old, and while he was in recovery, he had a cardiac arrest during which he coded and needed CPR to save his life.

During his second open heart surgery (call the Glenn) his phrenic nerves (they control the movement of the diaphragm) were paralyzed and left him unable to breathe on his own. He had to receive a tracheotomy and be put on a ventilator with the hope that his nerves would recover. They’d never had this happen at Cincinnati Children’s, so the doctors didn’t know whether or not the nerves would regain full function again, let alone any function at all. We lived in the hospital for 4 months waiting for his phrenic nerves to regain full function, and thankfully they did and he was able to breathe on his own once again.

Finally, there’s the burden a medical diagnosis like this puts on our family’s finances, marriage, family dynamic, and mental & physical health. Our family wrestles with PTSD, depression, and anxiety as a result of everything we’ve been through, as do most families who have been through the same hardship.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
We are CHD advocates, authors, public speakers, and podcast hosts located in Cincinnati, OH. We volunteered as parent contributors with multiple cardiology-related organizations such as the National Pediatric Cardiology Quality Improvement Collaborative and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and we are passionate about making a positive impact on the lives of families affected by congenital heart disease.

Here are some more specific details you should know about us:

Tom is a Corporate Trainer and Instructional Designer, and Kat is the director of content, marketing, and social media for the Hope and Courage platform. We are co-authors of the book “Hope and Courage: Six Life Lessons from the Parents of a Child with Congenital Heart Disease,” and co-hosts of “The Hope and Courage Podcast for CHD Parents”.

Our book “Hope and Courage: Six Life Lessons from the Parents of a Child with Congenital Heart Disease” will be released in the fall of 2022. In “Hope and Courage” we draw from our experience as we equip, motivate and inspire parents like us to prevail through the challenges that come with being a parent of a child with CHD. We are so proud of this book, and we are excited to guide parents through any hardships they may endure while preparing them for what to expect along the way. Relevant to any struggling parent, this book is a rallying cry for those who wish to convert any hardship into a positive, life-defining experience.

We are also proud of our podcast called “The Hope and Courage Podcast for CHD Parents” where we share the things we wish we knew at the start of our CHD journey, some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way, and we talk to CHD parents, patients, and medical professionals to get their stories of hope, encouraging insights, and valuable resources to give parents like us the right help at the right time. We’ve had a great response to this podcast, specifically from parents whose child has just been diagnosed with CHD and are looking for a positive resource to help them prepare for what’s to come.

We also have a great website that provides a lot of free, valuable resources for CHD parents. Our popular “CHD Parent Profile Assessment” is a personality test specifically for CHD Parents to help them navigate their relationships. There’s also our “Emergency Card Template” for parents to write down vital medical information about their CHD child and give to any other caregivers like teachers, babysitters, counselors, etc.

Here’s what sets us apart from other CHD resources:

There is no pain that compares to watching your child struggle with a serious disease, no fear like having to face their mortality, and no helplessness like seeing them in danger while feeling powerless to stop it. CHD parents know this struggle all too well. While their child is going through incredibly challenging medical adversities, the parents, along with the rest of the family, are walking wounded through the trauma. Sadly, many parents suffer through it alone, under-resourced, and without hope.

While most resources on CHD are well-intentioned, they don’t always hit the mark on what CHD parents are looking for. Most books about CHD are either written from a doctor’s perspective or are memoirs that don’t offer practical help. There are also the pamphlets that each individual hospital creates and hands out to families that don’t really address more than the disease itself or details about the hospital. CHD parent support groups are great, but it also involves a lot of people sharing their pain and can often add to the depression and anxiety a CHD parent is already feeling about their own child.

Our resources are created by actual CHD parents who have real experience living this complicated life. Also, we focus not only on practically equipping CHD parents for their family’s CHD journey, but also providing them with hope and courage along the way. We give them a way to navigate this life-altering diagnosis that doesn’t lead to the complete destruction of their family’s lives, as it often does. Lastly, our resources are easily accessible, mostly free, and offer a lot of value to any CHD parent.

What’s next?
Our book “Hope and Courage: Six Life Lessons from the Parents of a Child with Congenital Heart Disease” will be released in the fall of 2022. We are so excited to share it with the CHD community! We will be doing more public speaking events to equip and empower CHD parents and will continue providing great content on our podcast and website!

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Lorie Miller
Hannah Conrad

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