Baby Dakota faces surgery

First Presbyterian Church raising money to help Ptak family with medical expenses

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  • Jessica and Jason Ptak with their baby daughter, Dakota.

By Geri Corey

— Jessica and Jason Ptak were thrilled with the news that they were expecting their second child. Everything seemed fine, and they already had one healthy daughter, Sadie, age 2 1/2. They weren’t expecting to hear bad news.

Ham/turkey fundraiser for baby Dakota

What: Ham and turkey fundraiser
When: Sunday, March 23, at 5 p.m.
Where: Fellowship Hall at the First Presbyterian Churchm Goshen
How much: $20 adult, $10 children and senior citizens, children under 5 free. Make checks payable to the First Presbyterian Church and mail them to 33 Park Place, Goshen, N.Y. 10924. Write “For Baby Dakota” in memo. RSVP by March 19.
Take out: Take out orders are offered. Please order and pay in advance. Money donations will be appreciated.
For more information: Call the church office at 294-7991 weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. (Office closed between 12 and 1 daily). Or email

But when Jessica was 22 weeks pregnant, the couple heard devastating news: An ultrasound showed that doctors couldn’t see all four chambers of her baby’s heart.

Later, a fetal echocardiogram revealed that soon-to-be-born Dakota had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, usually referred to as HLHS. The left side of her heart was underdeveloped.

When Dakota was born on Jan. 1, 2014, weighing 6 pounds, 5 ounces, Jessica was allowed to hold her for five minutes. Then the newborn was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where she was born, for hook up to an IV. The purpose of the IV was to keep one valve open to continue blood moving from her heart to her lungs until surgery could be performed.

When Jessica had first heard of her unborn baby’s condition, she began researching the syndrome. She wanted to find the best place for her birth. She found that Children’s Hospital in Boston, directly connected to Brigham Women’s Hospital, is number one in pediatric heart surgery in the country.

“Being directly connected to the Children’s Hospital was a definite advantage," Jessica said. "They literally wheeled her over the bridge."

So on Jan. 3, at just two days old, Dakota had her first heart surgery. She fared well but remained in the hospital for three and a half weeks.

“She had to spend two-weeks in the cardiac recovery unit to learn how to feed — literally she had to learn how to be a baby,” said Jessica.

Although Jessica nurses Dakota three times a day, she uses a bottle the rest of the time. The baby has to gain weight for her next surgery, and bottle-feeding allows Jessica to keep track of the amount of formula she’s ingesting.

“Also, it takes more energy to nurse," Jessica said. "Dakota uses more calories when she nurses than she takes in.”

Her next surgery will take place when she’s between four and six months old.

Complicating her condition is that the infant has a large hole between the left and right sides of her heart that has to be repaired.

Admitting that she’s “tired and stressed,” Jessica explained that besides the constant worry over of her baby’s condition, extra chores have to be done every day to prepare Dakota for surgery. Besides weighing her daily, she has to check the baby’s oxygen levels twice a day to note whether it’s too high or too low. When the level becomes consistent in either direction, Dakota will be ready for her next surgery.

Jessica is quick to add that her husband, Jason, helps in any way he can. She’s especially grateful that he gets up with her in the middle of the night when she needs support the most.

As Dakota endures future surgeries and recuperation, she’ll have to visit the doctor every two weeks.

While the Ptaks were in Boston for Dakota’s birth and surgery in January, Jason lost his insurance coverage, adding additional tension. Although they’re working on reinstating their insurance, nothing has been settled yet.

Parishioners of the First Presbyterian Church of Goshen, where the Ptaks are members, are trying to give hope to this young family with a beautiful little girl who can’t live without surgery by hosting a dinner to raise funds. Proceeds are designated to help in any way with Dakota’s medical treatment. (Please see related article.)

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