Abby Chin didn’t necessarily require the reminder on the television screen of how much her life had changed in a few short weeks. The arrival of a couple’s first child is a particular kind of joyful, overwhelming chaos unto itself, and Chin and husband Mike’s daughter, Mabel, had just come home, born the night before Christmas.
“It was crazy and it all happened so fast,’’ said Chin, a sideline reporter and host for Comcast SportsNet New England’s Celtics coverage. “She wasn’t due for another two weeks or so. A Christmas Eve surprise, that’s what she was.”
Still, Chin found herself amused by the visual.
“We had just gotten home from the hospital and ‘Celtics Insider,’ the magazine show that I do, was airing for the first time that Saturday,’’ she recalled. “We shot the standup for that my last day at work [on Dec. 21]. Here I am, home with my daughter, and I turn on the TV and there I am, still pregnant. It was funny how much had happened in my life since we shot that.”
She’s not exaggerating. Mabel’s early arrival was only the beginning of an eventful and often frightening time for Abby and Mike. It had become apparent after they brought their baby home that something wasn’t quite right. Over New Year’s weekend, Mabel wasn’t eating well. She was lethargic and sleeping constantly. “We just felt like something was off,’’ said Chin.
On Monday, they took Mabel to the pediatrician. The pediatrician examined the baby, then sent her immediately to the emergency room. Something was off, terribly, terrifyingly so. Mabel was diagnosed with a severe coarctation in her aorta, which was causing acute congestive heart failure. In layman’s terms, that meant she had a severe blockage that was preventing her heart from pumping blood to the lower half of her body.
Mabel was admitted to intensive care at Boston Children’s Hospital within the hour. She had open-heart surgery when she was 13 days old.
“The most terrifying thing was the morning before her surgery I was just holding her, and crying on top of her,’’ said Chin. “She had two IVs coming out of her head. It was just traumatizing. And talking to her, I was afraid to talk about the future. It was terrifying, horrifying, the possibility of losing a child being a real possibility for 36 hours.
“But once she went into surgery, it kind of felt like it was out of our hands. Once she made it through that and she was in the intensive care unit, with tubes coming out of everywhere, I was amazed at how much better I felt and how well we kept it together at that stage because I felt like she had really been through the worst of it.”
Mabel will have to monitor her heart her entire life, her mom says, and she does still have a small hole that does not require repair. But the doctors call her surgery a one-and-done. She will be able run and play and live the life of a girl who never endured what she has. Born at 4 pounds 10 ounces, she’s more than doubled in weight.
“Her head is massive,’’ said Chin with a chuckle. “She’s growing like a crazy person. We weigh her every morning. She’s smiling. She’s just so much better.”
Chin returned from maternity leave Tuesday. She’ll work the sideline during Celtics home games while serving as the studio host when they are on the road. She’s not going to travel until the playoffs. “I’m kind of easing back into it,” she said.
Chin and her husband, a freelance software engineer who works from home, feel extremely blessed that their daughter was born in Boston, home of some of the world’s best hospitals.
“My husband and I, we’ve been across the country for both of our careers,’’ said Chin. “We met at ESPN in Connecticut. We’ve moved to Alabama, and the Pacific Northwest and Seattle and Oregon, and then we came here to Boston. We just feel so lucky that we were here when we had the baby and we have the best possible hospital for what she had in our backyard. The people there — the nurses, doctors, the staff — were amazing throughout one of the darkest periods of our lives.
“Every game the Celtics honor the ‘Heroes Among Us,’ ’’ she said, referencing the team’s program that acknowledges people who have done extraordinary things for others by introducing them during a game. “That’s what they are at Children’s Hospital. Heroes among us. And they do it every day.”