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Seattle Children's performs open heart surgery on 1-day-old, saving life

He had to be flown on a military plane from Guam to Seattle Children's as it was the closest hospital -- 5,600 miles away.

Photo: Seattle Children's

Hours after being born, a baby named Liam boarded a private military plane in Guam for a life-saving operation in Seattle.

Liam was born with a serious heart defect called transposition of the great arteries. His aorta and pulmonary arteries were reversed, preventing his body from getting enough oxygen.

Seattle Children's was the closest hospital, more than 5,600 miles away.

His parents, Taylor and Scott Ray, had to split up. Only one could come with Liam to Seattle. As Taylor stayed in Guam to recover from giving birth, Scott traveled to Seattle.

Photo: Seattle Children's

“It was devastating,” Taylor said in a Seattle Children's blog post. “You hear stories about this happening but you never think it will be you. I thought we’d be going home as a family, and then suddenly I was alone as Scott and Liam were flying across the globe.”

Doctors at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam coordinated with doctors at Seattle Children's, as well as doctors at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu in the event of Liam needing stabilization mid-flight.

They used FaceTime, the video chat service by Apple, to plan for Liam's arrival.

“They say it takes a village to care for a child, but this situation took three highly coordinated villages,” said doctor Jonathan Chen said, who performed Liam’s surgery and is the chief of pediatric cardiovascular surgery, as well as co-director of Seattle Children’s Heart Center. “We all held our breath until he got here because the situation was very high risk.”

Liam underwent a six hour surgery when he arrived in Seattle. Still in Guam, Taylor paced anxiously awaiting an update. Scott eventually called in tears.

“Our boy made it," he told Taylor. "He is going to be OK.”

Photo: Seattle Children's

About five days later, Taylor finally was able to come to Seattle to join her family.

“The moment I got to the hospital, I sprinted into the room and grabbed my son,” she said. “I was so emotional as he looked up at me with his big blue eyes like, ‘Where have you been mom?’”

Liam is now four weeks old. The family moved to Illinois, where Scott is based.

The only sign of the life-saving surgery is a scar. Taylor says Liam smiles all the time and is one very happy baby.

“We’re so thankful we were able to get him to Seattle Children’s,” Taylor said. “We’re incredibly grateful for the doctors and nurses who supported us every step of the way and saved our son’s life. They will forever hold a special place in our hearts because they healed our son’s broken one.”