Inspired by The Champas

20-week ultrasound drives family to plan B; COVID-19 drives them to plan C

Boy or girl?

Most expectant parents go into their 20-week ultrasound looking for the answer to that question. But the pictures on the screen showed more than Ashley and Luke Champa anticipated.

Their first pregnancy was without incident and all the signs pointed in the same direction for pregnancy number two. That is, until the routine Christmastime ultrasound uncovered a congenital heart defect that transposed the baby’s two main heart arteries.  

A pediatric cardiologist later assured the Champas that, while not common, the condition was treatable through an open-heart surgical procedure done within the first week after birth. For the time being, baby was safe in utero, but the Champas’ birth plan would require a specialist hospital in Minneapolis.

The Champas formulate plan B

After the shock wore off, Luke realized this pregnancy was about to become very complicated—and very expensive. “I called BCBSND and they connected me with a member advocate (Julie) to help us navigate the situation,” Luke remembers. “She was happy to take on our case … she took care of everything. We got to focus on the baby.”

Armed with information from medical staff and BCBSND, Team Champa created plan B. All they had to do was execute.

Housing. Check.

Childcare. Check.

Remote working setups. Check.

Family support system. Check.

Birth, surgical and recovery plans. Check.

“We made arrangements to move to Minneapolis in late March, four weeks before Ashley’s due date, and remain there until the baby was discharged,” Luke remembers.

And then … COVID-19

A week before the move, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared an emergency executive order directing Minnesotans to stay at home. It was time to test this young family’s resilience and come up with plan C.   

As businesses shut down, the couple scrambled. “Our Blue Cross advocate, Julie, was even able to research some new housing options for us,” Ashley recalls. “We all came upon an Airbnb apartment and so we went with it.”

Plan C included additional challenges like leaving their toddler behind and forgoing extended family support, among other things. Ashley and Luke recall trouble even finding places to eat during their stay.

Welcome, Eloise

On April 21, the Champas welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Eloise. Ashley held her for a few seconds and released her to medical staff to prepare for open heart surgery the next day.  

After a long day in the family waiting room, the pediatric heart surgeon emerged with good news. Surgery went well. He suggested the Champas take a much-needed meal break while staff conducted post-op procedures. Luke and Ashley would be back in time to greet Eloise as she woke up from surgery.

The scene when they returned from dinner was not what anyone expected. Mom and Dad found Eloise on life support after an unexpected and unrelated complication.

The following weeks were trying but Eloise rebounded and earned her way out of the maze of tubes sustaining her.  

“It was a month before we actually got to hold her,” Ashley said. “And then we worked toward feeding her.”

“We finally got to the go-ahead to come home,” Luke remembers. “That was a great day!”

Ashley sighs and agrees, “Yeah … it was.”

Today the family is reassembled at home in Fargo with big sister Aggie doting on Eloise. Their quiet COVID-quarantine life could not look more different than the sterile, technology-filled hospital environment where the Champas spent their spring.

“Things could have turned out a lot different, but we’re thankful to Blue Cross and everything they did for us,” says a grateful Ashley. Referring to all the behind-the-scenes work, Luke adds, “I wish I knew exactly who to thank, but I don’t.”

You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice. —Bob Marley

Watch the Champas tell their story.