Anthony Hamilton and his wife Heidi had a house full of sprightly energy from their two sons, Sterling and Archer, and a friend’s son, whom they watch most days.
Despite the occasional screams and a little roughhousing from Sterling — he is a toddler after all — it doesn’t seem like they’d change anything about their lives as parents.
It’s because Sterling, who is two years and four months old now, is still in their lives.
Heidi spoke to her almost six-month-old son, Archer, about Archer’s big brother.
“We’re pretty happy, huh?” Heidi asks Archer. Archer cooed back and smiled.
“He’s just a happy guy,” Heidi said as she smiled at her youngest son and held him up on her knees. “Thankfully, he doesn’t have any of the heart problems like Sterling had. It’s kind of a relief there. It was a 50-50 chance.”
Heidi then asked Archer, “We got lucky, didn’t we buddy?”
Archer smiled back and chuckled at his mom.
As of Tuesday, the Hamiltons were doing well.
It’s been more than a year since the hardest time in their lives when Sterling survived a surgery to repair his Ventral Septal Defect, which is a hole in the heart.
His medical road is not over yet.
“We just found out Sterling has to have another surgery, which is kind of the result of his original surgery,” Heidi said. “When he had his heart surgery he came back and ended up having a type of hernia, basically. They said that’s pretty common with surgeries like that, that they might get a hernia during surgery. So we have to get that fixed in May.”
Heidi said finding out about the hernia surgery was “kind of scary news,” just because her son’s surgery before was so serious. During recovery, Sterling’s chest was full of breathing tubes and he went on, and then off, a “bypass machine,” according to Heidi.
“And now he has to go in for another (surgery), which means we have to do antibiotics before and we have to just be really careful with infections or anything like that because that could mean an infection in his heart if he gets an infection anywhere else,” Heidi said.
The worry about the infection isn’t just because it would be an infection, it’s because of Sterling’s heart, which makes him more vulnerable.
“His pericardium — the lining around the heart — was cut open,” Heidi said. “And so it doesn’t really heal back when you cut open that sac. It’s just kind of exposed rather than being protected and fluid. If he were to get an infection it would be serious for his heart.”
Even if Sterling needed a cavity filled at some point, he’d need antibiotics to avoid infection. An infection is one of the last things he needs.
“An infection pretty much equals hospitalization for someone like Sterling, who’s had open heart surgery,” Heidi said.
Sterling appeared to be a happy little boy on Tuesday as he was playing with his monster trucks. He and Anthony just got back from Monster Jam in Portland. Sterling, dressed in a black Monster Jam shirt, even got to sit on one of the tires of a monster truck.
The proud papa was showing the various family photos he’s snapped of their oldest little guy, who they love dearly.
“We definitely spoil Sterling a little bit more than we would if he hadn’t had a heart surgery,” Heidi said as Sterling played with the trucks on their living room carpet. “And just kind of little things, like every time we go to the store, we’ll get him a new monster truck because they’re just little monster trucks. They cost like $4 and they make him happy and we like to see him happy. I think we just remember how hard it was to go through his surgery and how horrible it felt for us. We just like to spoil him a little bit extra.”
As for dad, he was in a good mood Tuesday.
“I’ve been really good,” Anthony said. “I’ve just been hanging out with (Sterling) most of the time.”
Anthony’s been home since about September, when Archer was born. Heidi said her husband got 12 weeks off to spend time with Archer after the birth and then another 12 weeks in order to help Heidi through a couple of hernias she had to deal with.
“So, it kind of just worked out because it was one after another and we were able to do that thankfully, because I definitely needed help with these guys after the hernia surgery,” said Heidi, who was on bedrest for about two weeks during her painful recovery. “It was nothing like his heart surgery though. He got through it fine.”
As for how Sterling is outside of his heart issues, the parents say he’s a typical 2-year-old.
“He’s starting to talk in sentences,” Anthony said. “He’s starting to talk in sentences and getting fluent. He can say Monster Jam and talk about Monster Jam. He knows all the different trucks.”
Heidi talked about what Sterling knows, which only highlights her son’s creativity.
“He comes up with his own sentences too,” Heidi said. “So like when he has a dream he’ll wake up and be like, ‘This morning mommy was up in a tree.’ And so he’s putting together his own sentences and stuff now, which is cool.”
The couple is finding out more about their son, in terms of his thoughts and his personality.
“Most people can’t even like tell he’s gone through anything like that,” Heidi said. “If you didn’t know that he had a heart surgery, or couldn’t see his scar, then you wouldn’t be able to tell. We were told a lot of the times with ‘heart kids,’ they’ll have like developmental delays and stuff just because of the less blood that pumps through their bodies. That’s just not the case with him. He’s very, very smart. He knows his ABCs and he counts to 30 now. And he’s forming his own sentences, and he knows the sounds animals make. Pretty much everything you need to know to get into kindergarten, he knows.”
And he’s also learning to potty-train. Sterling has No. 1 down, but still has to master No. 2, according to Anthony.
While Sterling has been spoiled, he’s also a loving little boy.
“He’s great with Archer,” Anthony said. “I’ve got a lot of good pictures of them together.”
Heidi said she thought it would be harder to raise two boys.
“But Sterling couldn’t love Archer any more,” Heidi said.
Anthony, bragging about Sterling’s cuteness, showed a photo of Sterling enjoying a donut from “Voodoo Donuts” in Portland.
“I’m obsessed with trying to get cute pictures of them,” he said.
The couple wanted to thank their local community — for Heidi that also means a Heart Moms group — and for both parents it means thanking their friends, family and neighbors for the help they’ve received.
The couple is also changing their professional lives. For Anthony, that means working in medical coding. He’ll be able to work from home. For Heidi, that means working on a nursing degree at South Puget Sound Community College.
But, for now, the hardest part is over. Sterling’s OK, which makes Anthony and Heidi very happy. It also makes Archer very happy too.
The happiness inside the home put Archer in a social mood.
“Goodbye Matthew,” Archer said clearly as Reporter Matthew N. Wells left the family’s Montesano home.
The Daily World Reporter Matthew N. Wells left the family’s Montesano home.
“Goodbye Matthew,” Sterling said clearly to Wells. Sterling then waved goodbye.
Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at email@example.com.