This photography session was gifted to a family through We Believe in Abby. An organization which I donate a session to every year. It was I who learned and was completely inspired by this amazing, loving family. This session was a gift to me as well. Please take a moment to read in a mother’s own words what a Heart Family goes through. Also visit Melissa’s page Essential Hearts for more information.
“Our names are Brian and Melissa Kottelenberg and these are our five amazing children: Braden, Merrick, Kenya, Tyson, and Addisyn. On the outside, we look like your regular fun, energetic, sports-loving family. But what you may not know about us, what you can’t see from the outside is that we live the kind of life that most people can’t even imagine. We are a Heart Family.
Our spunky 7-year-old son Tyson was born with several complex congenital heart defects (CHD.) A CHD is an abnormality in the structures of the heart that are present at birth. Tyson’s defects are so severe that he required open-heart surgery within days of his birth. He underwent three open-heart surgeries at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children all within the first two years of his life. In addition, because of an underlying issue he has with his pulmonary veins, the surgical team at Sick Kids has decided that there is nothing more they can do for Tyson’s heart. And so, if his heart function declines further or his pulmonary veins cause problems again, he will be listed for a heart & lung transplant. In addition to the open-heart surgeries, Tyson has also undergone numerous cardiac catheterizations; and he’s had so many ECHOs, ECGs, chest x-rays, MRIs, blood draws, scans and tests that we honestly couldn’t count them all.
As a heart family, we’ve learned that we can never look too far ahead into the future and we try to live each day in thankfulness. There are some weeks that we need to take things one day at a time, and some days we need to take things one hour at a time. We are learning that we can never take a single day for granted and we must count each and every little blessing. We make the best of our quality time together, because we never know when that time will run out.
Being a heart family can also mean lots of sunshine and roses too! Today, Tyson is an energetic seven-year-old who goes to school and participates in normal activities like swimming lessons, piano lessons, soccer and hockey. His body has limits yes, but over time he is learning his limitations and knows when he has to slow down.
Over the years of being a heart family, we often sit back to reflect on how much we are incredibly BLESSED. It brings tears to our eyes when we think about how much Tyson has been through in his short life and how much God has blessed him with strength, courage, and perseverance to fight this battle against CHD. We are thankful for how God has also provided for our heart-healthy children who have to deal with the emotional implications of having a medically fragile brother. We are so thankful for everything we’ve learned along this journey; how our faith has grown, how our marriage has been strengthened, how our love as a family has deepened.
Thank-you Iris Rocha, for capturing in your photos a small glimpse of the great love we have in our hearts for each other.”