A heart condition nearly cost Katy Conners her life, but mother of seven resolved to place her pregnancy in God's loving hands
SOUTH LYON — Last summer, Katy Conners of South Lyon was thrilled to learn she was expecting another baby. It would be the seventh child for her and her husband, Brad.
As a seasoned mom, Conners assumed this pregnancy would be like the others. But in the end, it would be a battle not only for her baby’s life, but for her own.
A year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, 2022, Conners is living proof that every life matters.
Conners was born with an unicuspid aortic valve, a rare heart condition that presents as aortic stenosis, in which the aortic valve narrows over time. Throughout her life, Conners has been under the care of cardiologists to monitor her condition. She knew she’d eventually need a valve replacement.
When Conners was eight weeks pregnant, she and Brad met with a cardiologist and learned her situation had grown worse. The valve had nearly completely narrowed, restricting blood flow and putting her at high risk for the pregnancy and for a cardiac event. Performing surgery while pregnant was not an option. Doctors encouraged her to have an abortion so she could correct the heart issue.
“It was never an option for us to have an abortion,” said Conners, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth. “But not everyone agreed with our decision. It was amazing to see how quickly the answer for some was an abortion, versus giving this baby a chance and trying to make it possible for us both to survive. That’s why it was important for us to name the baby early so that people could see this wasn’t just affecting me — there was another person involved.”
They named their son Teddy.
At 13 weeks, Conners' heart condition continued to worsen. She was admitted to the University of Michigan Hospital on Nov. 10, 2022, for complete bed rest and constant monitoring. She would spend Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas in the hospital, as well as several of her children’s birthdays. FaceTime kept her connected to celebrations at home, and her children’s visits to the hospital provided life-giving hugs.
Conners, who is known for her bright smile, endless energy and positive attitude, had to accept help from others to keep her busy family going. The family moved to Michigan from Wisconsin in 2020, and both Katy’s and Brad’s families live out of state. Brad tapped into offers of help from new friends in the Detroit area for meals and rides to school and activities.
“Our Spiritus Sanctus Academy and Catholic Central communities, Our Lady of Good Counsel, our former school, St. Regis, and our friends from Wisconsin all came together and brought meals, gift cards, rides and many, many prayers,” said Conners, founder of the Detroit Area Catholic Moms Facebook group, which has nearly 2,000 members. “Our families really stepped up, too. My mom and in-laws took turns visiting as well as my brother and sister, aunts, uncles and cousins.”
As baby Teddy grew, Katy posted daily updates with ultrasound photos and pictures of the older children’s school activities, dance recitals and special moments during their visits to the hospital. Comments of support poured in along with cards, letters, flowers and gifts. Katy’s hospital room was called the “Hallmark room” by hospital staff because the room was decorated for each holiday and covered with art from her kids: Jack, 15, Josie, 13, Charley, 12, Lillie, 10, Henry, 9, and George, 7.
“My goal in the hospital was to live each day with joy," Conners said. "My husband and kids were the real heroes of our story. They pulled together to make sure I never had to worry about them, and I could rest and take care of Teddy.”
At 26 weeks, Conners’ doctors determined that her heart surgery couldn’t wait any longer. Teddy was born via caesarean section on Jan. 27, weighing 2 pounds, 1 ounce. He entered the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) while Katy was monitored by her cardiac team. She remained in the hospital for two weeks, then moved to the Ronald McDonald House for an additional three weeks. Being nearby allowed her to spend time with Teddy while gaining strength for her much-needed heart surgery.
On March 8, Conners underwent successful open-heart surgery to replace her aortic valve. A bed opened in the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital's intensive care unit, allowing her to recover close to Teddy. Just 10 days post-operation and 128 days after being admitted to the hospital to fight for her life and Teddy’s, she went home.
Despite many challenging days in the NICU, Teddy continued to grow stronger until he was discharged from the hospital on May 8, 101 days after he was born. He returned to the hospital twice with breathing issues because of a cold, but he is adapting well to life at home. His six older siblings read to him, help change diapers, and simply can’t imagine life without him.
Conners hopes her story will help people see that every life is precious, no matter what stage of development.
“It is vital to protect life from the moment of conception, especially when the circumstances are not ideal,” Conners said. “It was such a blessing to watch Teddy grow in my womb and have multiple ultrasounds where the doctors would see his development, and I could remind them of his name and let them know how special he is.”
At the time of publication, Teddy weighed 9 pounds, 10 ounces and continues to thrive, thanks to his doting brother and sisters, parents, and the support and love of countless friends and family.
“Our journey was very difficult, and it took a lot of sacrifice on behalf of my family and community. I am so grateful for all the support I had, especially spiritually," Conners said. "I had an army of saints and angels whom I asked for intercession, and thousands of people around the world praying for us.”
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