Chelsea Ackerman

A Mommy’s Heart

February 2024ElizabethHuggins0124
by Mary Hope Roseneau

Photography by
Leslie Lynn Photography

Chelsea Ackerman met up with me at Lowcountry Cider and Coffee shop on a blustery, cold Saturday morning. She’s a young mother of an almost 5-year-old and a 1-year-old, so her wonderful husband, Johnathan kept them at home for our interview. A cute blonde, with a quick smile, she arrived early, texting me for confirmation.

Chelsea was born with a rare congenital heart condition. It’s called transposition of great arteries, in which the two main arteries are somehow switched from where they should be. At birth, she spent several weeks in the Medical University of South Carolina hospital (MUSC), while doctors considered heart surgery, but decided on a “wait and see” approach instead. She says she’s had cardiologist appointments all her life, and other than a few fainting spells, grew up perfectly normal. She was an active cheerleader in her high school years and met her husband in high school. They dated for ten years and have been married for seven.

Her childhood and adolescence were normal, except for the one repeated warning her doctors agreed on: Pregnancy was not recommended! Chelsea explained that during pregnancy the body’s blood volume doubles and creates added stress on the heart. Doctors did not want her to put this extra stress on an already unusual, possibly life-threatening condition.

However, naturally Chelsea and Johnathan longed for a baby and decided it was worth the risk. They prayed about it a lot and were convinced they wanted to try. Chelsea and Johnathan decided to trust God and go for it.

She suffered a miscarriage with her first pregnancy, but the next one went just fine with the birth of Eleanor. She had double the ultrasounds other new mothers have, checking both her heart and little Eleanor’s each time. The cardiologists stressed she could not have a C-section, which would cause even more stress on her heart, so she was induced two weeks early, with only 15 minutes of labor. Eleanor was just perfect in every way.

Mom, however, had a slight change in her heart condition, and three months after delivery, cardiology specialists tried to repair Chelsea’s tricuspid valve. Having open heart surgery was scary for the new mom, but grandparents stepped up and helped with Eleanor. That procedure just “didn’t take”, so Chelsea went back to MUSC to have a mechanical valve put in. This one went well, and she was soon back enjoying her new baby girl. Now, Chelsea can hear a constant, slight “ticking” sound from the opening and closing of the mechanical valve, and even her little girl can put her ear there and hear it. She knows it’s her Mommy’s heart. Kleenex, anybody?

Doctors again stressed that she was a high-risk pregnancy patient, and no more babies! Chelsea and Johnathan again prayed and had faith that God would provide protection for her and the little baby, and four years later baby boy Grant arrived! Again, she was induced early, and he arrived fast! Chelsea feels strongly that God said to them, “You’ve got your little girl, now you’ve got your little boy. Your family is complete.”

Chelsea had to go to lots of appointments throughout the pregnancy. She also had to give herself shots twice daily and was placed on a blood thinner drug. She is the youngest person at her blood thinner clinic!

Chelsea continues to see cardiologists, but now she’s been cleared for only once-a-year visits! That’s a good thing because besides being a wife and mother of two little ones, she also works as a part-time design consultant at “More Space Place” in Bluffton. Now, with her loving husband, precious babies, and the mechanical valve keeping her heart functioning properly, Chelsea is more faithful than ever. She prayed with all her heart, and now, all of her heart is overflowing with love.


Up Close:
Chelsea is such an inspiration, and she doesn’t mind sharing her story,
and what she’s learned so far:

• Trust your gut and have faith.

• Don’t focus on the worst that can happen.

• Accept the life you’ve been given (such as having to be on medications the rest of her life).

• Keep saying to yourself, “I will make it through this!”