PURSUIT Of the HEART

By Chrissy Cifuentes

In recent years, she has found this statement to be unshakably true. “If you were to have met me in 2013, you would have thought that I had everything perfectly in line,” said Trista Brazan.  “My husband Kenny and I had our careers in place, a healthy little girl, and one on the way.” Brazan described her past self as a strict, organized planner. She had a thriving career as the executive director of a major non-profit, and she planned to continue her position in order to inspire others in her field. “When I was pregnant for my second child, I had no idea how much it would impact my life,” stated Brazan. “You can only plan so much, but then God steps in.” 

On the first of May in 2014, lives were forever changed when baby Claire Brazan was born. Along with Claire came a new outlook on life and a powerful inner strength within the Brazan family. As soon as she took her first breath, bright-eyed baby Claire had to fight for her life. She was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome or HLHS. This rare disease is caused when the left side of the heart is underdeveloped and does not work properly. “The right side of the heart is not meant to pump blood to the entire body. It is only supposed to pump to the lungs,” said Brazan. “I only had a few moments with my baby girl in my arms after she was born. After a few minutes, she was taken by the nurses to start lifesaving medications.” 

  Brazan shared that she had no signs of Claire’s heart defect while pregnant. “I thought that everything was normal. Fortunately, we found out earlier about Claire’s disorder so we had time to digest the news,” she said. “It was not until a precautionary check-up that the doctors discovered Claire’s rare heart condition. I was 23 weeks pregnant and traveled with my mom and oldest daughter to the doctor’s office just to make sure everything was all right with the baby,” she said. “We were supposed to make a day out of it, but I was truly not prepared for what I was about to hear.” That very day, Brazan was informed that Claire’s life would be extremely challenging starting with her first breath. Doctors stated that Claire would be born alive; however, she would require several heroic open-heart surgeries to stay alive. “I was in shock,” said Brazan. “But, I knew I had to remain strong for my family, especially my little girl Chloe.”

According to Brazan, her oldest daughter Chloe played an intricate part in strengthening her faith and uncovering Claire’s condition. “When Chloe was a baby, the doctors discovered she had a heart murmur. Unlike Claire’s condition, Chloe’s murmur was not as serious, but it required attention with some routine check-ups,” said Brazan. “Thinking about Chloe’s murmur prompted me to ask the doctor about Claire’s heart when I was 20 weeks pregnant. If I would not have asked, I may have never found out until she was born, and it would have been too late,” she said.  “When I told Chloe about her baby sister’s condition, it did not take her very long to tell me that God had it under control. At such a young age, she had possessed such a strong faith that God was going to make it all right.”

At 36 weeks pregnant, Brazan’s family made an instrumental decision to move to Houston, Texas in order to give baby Claire the best care possible. “While my husband was back and forth due to his work, I had my mom there with me. I worked remotely and eventually had to give up my career, but my community was such a blessing. I had so much support from family, friends, and even complete strangers,” said Brazan. “Everyone was praying for our Claire.” 

Brazan describes Claire’s first moments of life as a whirl-wind. She had her first open heart surgery at one week old, and her second procedure followed just a few months afterwards. When describing Claire’s medical state, doctors used the unpleasant phrase of “ticking-time-bomb”; however, Brazan continued to advocate for her daughter. After the second heart surgery, it was clear to Claire’s doctors that the next step in her health journey would be receiving a heart transplant. All options were discussed, and medical teams from both Texas and Louisiana started preparing Claire and her family for this detailed and emotionally grueling process. “Right before Christmas of 2014, Claire went into end-stage heart failure. Time was running low, and we needed to get everything in order so that she could receive her heart. It was a long process, but we finally had a breakthrough.” Claire received her new heart on March 5, 2015.

According to Brazan, Claire’s health journey is still unpredictable, but that doesn’t keep this mother from finding purpose and passion within each day present with her little girl. “She has severe gastric motility disorder along with developmental conditions like Turner’s Syndrome and Autism, so each day presents different challenges,” said Brazan. “Even though it may seem like she does not know me as her mother to the fullest potential, we have our precious times to connect.” Brazan explains that music is how her and baby Claire unwind after a long day of strenuous health challenges. “Music and song are our ways to connect, and it soothes her,” she shared. “Nothing can relax her in times of pain like the sound of her mother’s voice.” 

Through all of the uncertainty and heartache, Trista Brazan has found purpose within the heartache. These past four years of trials and tribulations have revealed in her a passion beyond reason and has birthed writing talents that she believes is straight from above. “My relationship with God is strong because of Claire, and I am so grateful for her,” said Brazan. “Her entire life is about blessing people. Through her journey, I found who I am supposed to be.”

Trista Brazan’s book, “The Claire Chronicles”, is currently in the production process with Harper Collins Christian Publishing. It is slated to be released in Fall 2018 and she is anticipating Claire’s story to impact the lives of many. She also uses her social media platforms and blog, “In Chaotic Harmony”, to inspire others going through similar situations of heartache. Brazan now travels across southeast Louisiana uplifting others and informing them about her journey while encouraging them to embrace their current situations. “I want people to know just how blessed they truly are and that your outlook on life can change when you put all of your trust in God.”