Brady and Melissa Beckstead were thrilled to learn they were pregnant last December. They bought extra pregnancy tests to be sure, then filled a diaper bag with goodies and presented it to her parents to let them share the excitement.
But the first sign of a possible problem showed up at the Arroyo Grande couple’s second ultrasound. It showed a larger-than-normal amount of fluid at the back of the baby’s neck, indicating a genetic condition such as Down syndrome or Turner syndrome (where cells are missing all or part of an X chromosome).
A prenatal test that detects chromosomal abnormalities, however, turned up negative.
“Which was good,” Brady Beckstead said. “But they (doctors) did say prepare yourselves because if it’s neither of those then it’s probably a heart defect.”
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Nearly four months into 28-year-old Melissa Beckstead’s pregnancy, the couple learned that the left side of their daughter’s heart was not developing correctly, a congenital condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
“It was really hard there for a couple of weeks to even just begin to cope with it,” Brady Beckstead, 31, recalled. “It seemed like everything we started researching was negative. But we kept digging and finally started finding the positive things and the survivors, which helped us.”
The baby, Ella, is named after Brady Beckstead’s great-grandmother. The baby’s middle name, May, comes from the month the couple married in 2010.
Ella will have to undergo three surgeries once she’s born — the due date is Sept. 17, but doctors will likely induce labor earlier. The first surgery, to build a new aorta to maintain blood flow to the lungs, will happen three to five days after she’s born. Two others will happen within six months and three years.
At the moment, the couple is focused on a fundraiser tonight in Pismo Beach organized by Melissa Beckstead’s parents, Dana and Jenny Shaheen of Chameleon Productions.
The money raised would go toward covering costs above those that health insurance pays.
Brady Beckstead works at Giuseppe’s restaurant in Pismo Beach. Melissa Beckstead is a part-time nanny.
The delivery and surgeries are to take place at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where Ella is expected to have an extended stay.
So some of the money would also cover the costs of the couple’s stay in Southern California during the months following the first surgery.
“There are always risks,” Brady Beckstead said of the surgeries. “But what’s supposed to happen will happen, and I really feel everything will work out. She’s going to have a good life.”
‘Under our UmbrELLA,’ a musical benefit for Ella Beckstead, is set for 7 p.m. today at the Pismo Beach Veterans Memorial Building at 780 Bello St. The event features a silent auction, casino tables and performances by various local theater groups, including Kelrik Productions, The Studio of Performing Arts, Coastal Dance and Music Academy, Sorcerer Productions and other local artists. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at Cheap Thrills Records in San Luis Obispo, Beauty Secrets in Pismo Beach or online at www.brownpapertickets.com. The keyword is “under our umbrella.” A limited number of tickets will be available at the door; cash or check is preferred.
An account, the “Ella Beckstead Fund,” has also been set up at Rabobank.