Laycee Weaver loves to play doctor. It’s not surprising. At three-and-a-half years she’s had six heart surgeries including a heart transplant.
Laycee has a congenital heart defect. Doctors discovered the problem the day after she was born, when she went into heart failure. Her dad, Corporal (E4) Steven Weaver, USMC, was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
“She was a little blue when she was born,” her mom, Brandy, says. “She was born at 1:37 p.m. and slept until the next morning. The doctors thought it was because she was tired from the delivery.”
But during a checkup the next day, doctors noticed a heart murmur and ordered more tests. “Her right ventricle never developed and her body wasn’t receiving enough blood, and too much blood was going to her lungs,” Brandy says.
Laycee was flown to Vidant Medical Center at East Carolina University in North Carolina, where she was in the neonatal intensive care unit for three days. “She was doing fine,” Brandy says. “They let us take her home and watch for signs of heart failure. Later, during another checkup, the doctor measured Laycee’s liver enzymes. That test confirmed my baby was going into heart failure.”
Steven was in the field on a training exercise at the time. Brandy called his chain of command so he could be at the hospital for Laycee’s first surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “That surgery was easy,” Brandy says, “although at the time we thought it was hard because it was our first one.”
That was when the family met NMCRS visiting nurse, Heather Underhill, who worked with them for the next three years. “Heather came to our home to check Laycee’s weight and make sure she wasn’t going into heart failure,” Brandy says. “She also attended a lot of Laycee’s doctor appointments with me, especially when Steven was in Afghanistan.”
Nurse Heather remembers the first time she met Brandy and Laycee. “I listened to Brandy tell me what Laycee had gone through,” Heather says. “I cried with Brandy.”
At four-and-a-half months, Laycee went into heart failure again and had another surgery. Unsuccessful, the surgery had to be repeated three days later. Then, doctors found a blood clot in Laycee’s heart, and she spent Christmas in the hospital.
Over the next two years, Laycee had three more surgeries.
“I didn’t know many people in Jacksonville, North Carolina,” Brandy says, “so I relied on Heather. She helped us so much. We developed a close bond.”
Meanwhile, Steven made plans to leave the Marines to be home for his daughter. The Weaver family moved to Port Charlotte, Florida, where Brandy’s family lives, and they settled into their new home while Steven finished his time in the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune. “When we saw the cardiologist at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Florida, he concluded that Laycee needed a transplant,” Brandy says. She received her new heart in January 2017.
Despite what she’s been through, Laycee is a happy little girl.
“You could look at her and think she’s a normal three-year- old,” Brandy says. “We’re blessed, because she’s so strong.”
Brandy still keeps in touch with Heather. “The Society’s visiting nurses are a blessing and a help to military families,” Brandy says. The visiting nurses from NMCRS Camp Lejeune always made sure one of them was available to help the Weavers.
“Through an emotional three-and-a-half years,” Heather says, “it’s been a pleasure to help them, teach them about Laycee’s medications, assess Laycee’s progress, answer questions, provide emotional support, and more. I’ve loved working with this family.”
Now you know all the good you do for military families like the Weavers. With your support, you make it possible for the Society’s visiting nurses to be a lifeline for Sailors, Marines, and their families when they need us the most.
By: Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso