BAR HARBOR — When Bar Harbor residents Derrick Harrison and Sara Levine welcomed their baby into the world, they never expected to spend their first month as parents in and out of hospital rooms while their newborn recovers from open heart surgery.
In just two weeks, more than 225 members from the community have donated over $18,500 to a GoFundMe page started by Levine’s sister-in-law to cover expensive medical bills, flights and hotel room costs that would have been infeasible for the family otherwise.
“We’re really happy that everybody has been able to come together for us,” Harrison said. “It just really shows what our community stands for around here.”
Bowen Levine Harrison was born at 10:05 a.m. on July 20 at Mount Desert Island Hospital. Levine had zero complications during her ultrasounds, pregnancy and delivery, but around midnight, doctors alerted her of Bowen’s worsening condition.
As he started to turn blue due to lack of oxygen, LifeFlight of Maine, an emergency air ambulance service, rushed him to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Bangor, where he could be better assessed. While there, doctors discovered Bowen has a congenital heart defect that required immediate surgery to fix.
Within his first few days of life, Bowen was helicoptered for a second time from Bangor to the Boston Children’s Hospital to get necessary medical care. After performing an echocardiogram to check his heart, the specialists decided open-heart surgery was necessary and began operation on July 23.
Harrison explained that while a baby is in the womb, the umbilical cord provides oxygen and he won’t take his true first breath until after birth, replacing fluid in the lungs with air. Then a blood vessel that diverted blood away from the lungs closes so the baby’s heart will start pumping and circulating blood, carrying oxygen throughout the body.
This transition from fetal to infant circulation triggered Bowen’s inability to breathe. The life-saving surgery reattached his pulmonary vein from his liver back to his heart so his blood could be properly oxygenated.
Post-surgery, Bowen is slowly starting to recover. His chest has been closed back up and the initial swelling has gone down. Levine and Harrison can now have some of their first-time parent moments like holding, clothing, feeding and washing him.
“What I’ve learned with all of this is you just have to take it day by day,” Harrison said.
On July 30, Bowen came off a ventilator and finally started breathing on his own. He will stay at the Children’s Hospital for at least another month to monitor his progress. Although he’s overcome a major hurdle, there’s a 90 percent chance he will need surgery again at some point down the road.
Harrison said he doesn’t know if he can meet the looming costs of a month-long NICU stay and surgery, but he’s been blown away by the donations from his community, which have helped his family tremendously.
One contributor of the fundraising campaign wrote some words of encouragement on the donation site, saying, “You are all surrounded by an army of people who love and support you.”
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/loving-on-sara-derrick-baby-bowen.