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Against all odds: Newborn baby fighting same condition his mother did, 19 years later

19 years ago, newborn Elexis Casey struggled with a heart condition that threatened her life. Today, her newborn son is faced with the same condition — yet doctors say that the problem isn't hereditary.

Posted: May 10, 2019 7:06 PM
Updated: May 10, 2019 7:27 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Only on Newswatch 12...

Nineteen years ago we told you a story about a baby who fought for her life for months and now that same girl just had her very own baby, whose fighting for his life now too. Elexis was born with a complete AV canal heart defect, a condition where a hole between the heart's chambers creates problems with valves that regulate blood flow in the heart. It's a condition that isn't genetic, but now her newborn son is battling the same defect. Doctors said it's just a crazy coincidence.

On March 25, 2000, Newswatch 12 spoke with Rochelle Brett, the mother of Elexis Casey. When we spoke with her, Elexis was only five months old and fighting for her life.

Back then Brett told us, "They took a chest X-ray and discovered her heart was three times the normal size."

At five months old, Elexis had open heart surgery.

Friday Rochelle spoke with Newswatch12 again and recalls the months she spent by her daughter's side in the hospital, "I remember living in the hospital for months and I didn't get out very often."

Years later and Brett finds herself reliving the situation, but this time with her daughter and her newborn son. In February, Sawyer was born with the same heart defect as Elexis. Doctors said the condition is not genetic, but instead an unfortunate coincidence that one family is having to face all over again.

Brett said, "It's just one of those things where the odds are astronomical, they're similar in the sense that they have the same thing, but Sawyer's valve is worse than what hers [Elexis'] was." 

As of Friday, Elexis is in Portland, where Sawyer was airlifted to the hospital and continues fighting to remain in stable condition.

Sawyer's grandpa, Daniel Brett, said, "Everybody's calling him 'Sawyer the warrior', cause he is, he's a strong kid."

Three-month-old Sawyer had his first open heart surgery on April 11 for congestive heart failure. He was released from the hospital on April 23, but was flown back to Portland a few days later after experiencing severe heart complications. Sawyer is in stable condition, but doctors said he needs a second surgery.

Elexis told Newswatch 12, "His valves are so damaged and bad, they pretty much said 'We've never seen something like this', his valves almost weren't there."

Elexis remains positive, focusing on staying strong for her son Sawyer. Doctors are waiting for 10-pound Sawyer to gain weight before they perform the second surgery, in hopes of making the surgery safer.

"The overall goal now is to make sure that we can keep him stable and at a point where we can just grow him in strength and size as much as we can do," Elexis said. "Because there isn't an exact answer right now, we just have to get him as big as we can and keep him stable."

So for now, it's a waiting game to see how long doctors can let him grow before performing the surgery. This weekend the family plans to travel to Portland to celebrate Elexis' first Mother's Day.

"I think the first mother's day should be the best and the greatest mother's day," Daniel Brett said. 

The family has a Gofundme page set up to support Sawyer's medical expenses.


Below you'll find the archived story on Elexis Casey that NewsWatch 12 brought to viewers in 2000.

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