A few days following her birth, French-born surgeon Dr. Francois LaCour-Gayet will reconstruct her tiny little heart because only half of it is working properly.

Ashley has what's known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. In cases like Ashley's, the left side of the heart -- including the aorta, aortic valve, left ventricle and mitral valve -- are underdeveloped. In her case, only the right side of the heart is functioning properly.

If not treated, either through the surgical procedure or a heart transplant, the condition is fatal, generally within a few days or a couple of months.

Jeff and Julianne became aware of the rare heart defect during a routine ultrasound exam. After checking the size of the baby and taking measurements, the scanner turned to check on the organs.

Since learning of the condition in February, the couple and their family have weathered some trying times. But the Fielders say their faith keeps them going.

They began trying for their second child last fall and in October, the couple became aware Julianne was pregnant. She said everything appeared to be normal until the day of the third ultrasound.

"When they came to the heart, they said there was something wrong, a defect, and the tears just started flowing. I wondered what I had done wrong. This pregnancy was just like my other three. I have never smoked and never done drugs. I couldn't understand why this was happening," she said.

While there is no cure for the heart defect, some babies can live after going through a series of operations. The first must take place just days after birth.

The first operation, according to Jeff Fielder, is called the Norwood surgery. During this operation, the right ventricle is altered to pump blood to both the lungs and the body. If the baby survives this operation, the next surgery would occur when the baby is 3 to 5 months old and the third operation would happen between the ages of two and four years.

The American Heart Association states that the overall goal of the operation or operations is to allow the right ventricle to pump only oxygenated red blood to the body and to prevent or reduce mixing of red and blue blood.

After spending a little time with her parents, Ashley will be transferred to Children's Hospital and go through the five-hour surgery, which has a 90 percent survival rate.

The Fielders said they were given other choices, including compassionate care, in which the baby returns home and lives a short but comfortable life. They were also told about heart transplant procedures but decided the best course for their daughter would be the reconstructive procedure.

"Every second of the day I have thought about this since we found out about it on February 24. It's hard to believe there is a problem because she's so active. ... The surgeon told us that I have to be positive because Ashley feels what I feel, so I try to do that, but it's hard sometimes," Julianne said.

In addition to the emotional drain the experience is having on them, they are finding out how expensive medical costs can be, even after their insurance has paid its portion of the bills.

Jeff said he and his wife expect to receive thousands of dollars worth of bills over the next few months. The first operation alone is estimated to cost about $200,000, which doesn't include everything involved.

Different groups and organizations have stepped forward to try to help the family, including the couple's church, WestWay Christian Church, as well as Julianne's boss, Bev Overman. While the situation is extremely hard on Julianne, Jeff, the sports editor at the Star-Herald, is finding it tough as well.

"The doctors have told us that she'll be limited in what she can do as far as running and playing certain sports, but I don't care as long as she's alive and happy," he said.

Jeff said since the three-stage heart surgery is relatively new, not much is known about the long-term prognosis of children born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. The oldest person who has gone through the three-stage surgery is in their 20s.

Julianne's two sons - Brent Galinsky, 10, and Kevin Galinsky, 12, have also had a hard time with the pregnancy, mainly because they don't understand why their sibling faces such a difficult challenge before her birth. Julianne said their first daughter, 18-month-old Stephanie, knows "mommy" is pregnant and says she talks to her sister, even offering her a pacifier.

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