sharing Rhett's heart with the world

The Toughest Kid I’ve Ever Known


What a week!

I don’t even know where to start with this so I think I’m just going to kind of tell the story from the day we headed to the hospital to tonight, where I am feeling so great about everything and am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.

So the week started out Sunday with what else but Amanda and I running late to get to the hospital for our own kid being born. Ha! We stopped at Braum’s for dinner because we can never decide where to go eat and wanted to try something different. Amanda ordered an order of fries and ate a few of them and then we decided that we needed to grab some chocolate malts to go. Of course we sucked these down on the way to the hospital and felt even more sick to our stomachs than we already did. It was an indescribable mixture of excitement and fear with fear winning out on my end I think, but Amanda was handling it so well. We got to the waiting room and went to check in at 8:00pm and they told us they had no rooms available because of the number of people who had come in unscheduled. They told us to go run some errands if we had them or to go eat. Well hey people, of course we didn’t have anything else to do because you told us to be here at 8:00 and we were planning on being in the hospital for 6 weeks. Our loose ends had already been tied up.

We went to the waiting room and sat and I tried to watch the Cowboy game but my mind was obviously in other places and it was hard to focus until the end of the game. I was hoping to be able to tell Rhett of the story of when he was born and how the Cowboys beat the Saints, but of course our defense blew it and we lost. But I can at least tell him that the Rangers clinched the AL West that day and that’s a pretty good story too. There were a couple other guys in there and one was a Saints fan. I told him of my hopes for the future on the Cowboys story and when the Saints won he at least apologized.

We finally made it into a room around 1:00am and we got settled and were able to get to sleep pretty quickly thinking that we’d be having a baby sometime in the afternoon the next day. Our nurse Anna Catherine was seriously so fun and we got to joke and laugh and we thought that would be the last time we’d see her since we were thinking we’d be having a baby sometime in the afternoon the next day. In the morning when we woke the gravity of the situation took over me I think and I was as sick as dog. My tummy was not agreeing with me and I threw up multiple times in the morning. Our family had begun to gather and everyone was in pretty good spirits except for sick ol’ me. Everyone left the room for them to do some kind of check to Amanda. I was able to lay down in the dimly lit room. When Ashley Ylda came in to see us for a bit she was able to do what nurses seem to always be able to do and calmed my nerves. She was a true Godsend that day and was able to help my find some peace. As the morning turned into the afternoon the nurses told us that they were taking out the cervix softener sometime around about 2pm and then they’d finally induce. This led me to think we’d actually end up having Rhett around 8pm – 10pm. As the day went on and Amanda’s contractions got stronger and stronger I grew weaker and weaker watching her in pain.

To our incredible surprise at 6:00 when the shift change went down for the nurses we were so excited to see Anna Catherine return to be our nurse through the night. She let us know that she was going to make sure we had this baby that night! We were very much anticipating for the last month or so having Rhett be born on October 5th. 10-5-15 had a really nice ring to it, right!? The night waged on and Amanda’s cervix was not agreeing with our plan. The night went on more and 10pm was far behind us at midnight came and were were not making any progress. The doc came in and said he was starting to expect that she’d start pushing sometime around the sun coming up. Our family remained by our side and in the waiting room throughout the night. THANK GOD FOR MOTHERS. Sandy and my mom barely slept while coaching Amanda through the night and calming everyone’s nerves all around us. They made me lay down and try to get some sleep and when I woke up early Tuesday morning my stomach began to act up again and throwing up just couldn’t take the knots in my stomach. Amanda was at 6cm when they gave her the epidural and talk about intense. The magnitude of everything kept growing and watching her wince in pain up until the epidural was just crazy, but I stayed with her while she got it and Anna Catherine was there to hold her as she was stuck with a GIANT needle. I was so proud of Amanda and gained respect for mothers everywhere. This birth thing aint no walk in the park! It was getting close to time to push and my mom said I had one more shot to throw up and then it was time to suck it up! Anna Catherine was clearly struggling with leaving after her shift ended, but she made the decision that she was going to stay with us and see this all the way through. She will hold a special place in our hearts forever for this decision.

So now it was time, months of worrying, crying, laughing, gifts, parties, building, decorating, and planning all came down to this. It was time…

Amanda was amazing, she pushed and pushed and pushed as she and I held her legs. I finally saw the top of Rhett’s head. Push. Push. Push. As Rhett emerged “sunny side up” he came out with his eyes open and cried before even making it out. The doctor placed him on Amanda’s chest and my world changed forever. He looked right into my eyes as he laid there on her chest and I melted. The NICU team took Rhett and cleaned him up quickly but methodical and with such intense purpose it was amazing. They moved swift and calm and bundled him up to place in Amanda’s arms. That was a moment I’ll never forget. We weren’t sure if we’d get to hold him at all because of his heart condition. Then I got to hold him too and we all cried, except him of course. Again he looked into my eyes as if to say, I’m ready dad. Let’s go do this.


Rhett Parker Wyatt was born at 7:42am. 19.5″ and 6lbs 10oz of perfection on 10-6-15. Turns out 6-10 on 10-6 is pretty cool too.

I gave him to the team and they placed him in his clear box and we were off. As far as we had known to this point no one outside of the room was going to be able to see him, but our families were able to line the hallway that lead to the skybridge to take him to Cook’s. The moment was magic when we made our way out of the delivery area and into the hallway. My mom and I accompanied the team quickly through the skybridge and the halls of Cook’s and it felt like a maze with no end. My eyes transfixed on Rhett as he lay calmly with his eyes open watching the world around him for the first time. The trip was a blur of lights and sounds and turns and doors and we arrived in the NICU at Cook’s. They put Rhett into his new bed and began adding cables and wires and sensors and tubes. The team still moving swift and concise. “He’s doing great”, they said. Dr Roten was outside and told us he was doing just fine. What a relief.

Mom and I were then escorted back to Amanda and the rest of our family was in the room. I was feeling guilty that I hadn’t stayed with him, but the NICU team assured me he was in great hands and that they’d give us a call after they ran the rest of their tests before I could come back over.

We gathered in the room with excitement and the Cook’s team called me and told me that they checked everything and there were no problems with his brain or insides other than the heart. This was a great relief. Dr. Roten had nailed the defect at 22 weeks old, which is simply amazing.

I finally got to see Rhett again and he was laying so peacefully in his new home. He was perfect in every way except his heart.


They told us later that day I think that his surgery would be Thursday 10-8 and he would only be two days old when he underwent his first surgery, a modified Norwood procedure. I hope to go more in depth later on what this actually means when I get the full details on what exactly they did.

The time in between birth and surgery is already a blur. It feels like it was just one really really really long day. Many amazing things happened between birth and surgery. We were able to hold him Wednesday which was a huge surprise. The nurses at Cook’s were amazing. Everyone everywhere was amazing. My wife was so amazing and to see here eyes light up when holding him for the first time since delivery is a sight I’ll never forget. I mean look at her. Wow.


Very quickly it was Thursday and it was Rhett’s surgery day. Our family gathered in the waiting room again just a couple short days after doing the same what felt like hours ago. We were all running on fumes from lack of sleep and emotion overload, but by our side they remained. We could have never handled this the way we did without them. We are so very lucky.


The first walk we ever took Rhett on was to surgery at 2 days old. Kissing him goodbye was so hard, but the time had come. We tried to remain calm for him as we watching him wheel away.


When they called us at 12:21 to tell us that surgery had began I was in Amanda’s room at Harris and my stomach became uneasy again. We laid in bed together for the first time in what felt like forever and just looked and precious pictures of the perfect baby that God gave us. What an amazing blessing to be given. They were going to call us every hour with an update and at 1:30 they called to tell us that everything was going great and Rhett was doing awesome. The pit in my stomach vanished with that call and I suddenly knew everything would be okay. The day waged on with updates, each one as good as the last and at 5:11pm, 8 hours after we wheeled him to the OR, they called to tell us that surgery was over and that Rhett was doing just fine. It felt like the worst was over. Dr. Tam came to speak with us on the surgery and told us there was little more swelling that he’d have liked, but other than that Rhett did so good. I knew he would, he’s a Spangler!

Finally a little while after Dr. Tam spoke with us were were able to go into the CICU and see our son. Trust me when I tell you that there is nothing in the world that can prepare you for that sight. We are escorted in to Rhett laying on his back in his little incubator thing. Chest open with a think layer of plastic stitched over his his lungs and heart. You can see his heart beating through the yellow plastic. There are nurses and doctors everywhere. We are moved to the side a bit as they are finishing up getting him ready. He lay there swollen beyond belief with what seemed like a million tubes and wires connected to him. His eyes were swollen shut as they lift his eyelids to check on them. Amanda and I sit to the side clutching each other as our baby lay there. Tears begin falling and in a room with so much noise I could hear nothing but the sniffling of Amanda’s nose and absolute silence.


Minutes pass in what felt like hours as we watch him lay there. It was a sight no one should ever have to see. Dr. Tam saw us struggling and came over to tell us that this was all normal and that Rhett was doing perfectly fine. Amanda and I gathered ourselves and stood up to take a picture of our Rhett laying there on the table. I didn’t need a picture to remember this, there is no way to ever forget. He was still as beautiful as ever as he lay there perfectly still except for the babump babump babump of his open chest. Speechless we walked away to speak with our families.

As we walked into the waiting room you could hear a pin drop. Our families all huddled at the door to receive us. Our mothers who had been there with us through everything locked eyes with us and we both collapsed into each of their arms. Everyone cried.


We collected ourselves and went on to tell them how Rhett looked and showed them the picture. It was shocking, but everyone wanted to see. Some of them were able to come in afterwards and see Rhett. The picture made the real thing much easier to handle for those who were able to come in. Again, we were reassured that Rhett was doing great. The night went on and we stayed with family in the waiting room and were were able to laugh and smile again. They went home and Amanda and I went back to our boy and held each other ever closer as we watch his chest rise and lower from the oxygen tube that went through his nose. Looking back at where we are now, the hard part was over.

Rhett’s nurse walked us through all of his attachments and helped to steady our nerves. Amanda and I went to get some dinner in the Camelot Court at Cook’s. We were doing great. We were so tired, but we had made it through the hardest part of all of this. We went back up to the room. I was able to take a shower and get ready for bed and Amanda and kissed our Rhett goodnight and laid down in a dimly lit hospital room behind mountains of machines and screens and monitors to try to get some sleep. As I laid there with my wife we yet again found ways to laugh and smile. I wrapped my arms around here and the three of us got some sleep after what felt like the longest day ever.

Today was great. It was much more calm and Rhett continued to do great through the night and throughout the day. So well in fact that Amanda and I decided that I should go home and get some good rest.

That woman is the strongest woman I have ever known. She handled every bit of this with absolute grace and strength. We only cried at the same time twice. When we held him the first time and when we saw him after surgery. The rest of the time we were both able to remain strong for the other. She is my perfect partner and my perfect teammate.

Talon came today to see his little brother. He was so good with him and didn’t care about all of the wires and mess that was going on. He was just excited and he talked about how cute he was and how he was excited for him to come home so we could play catch. He talked about how small Rhett’s hands are and that he’d need a smaller glove because Talon’s was too big.

We had our family of four. The dad, the strong loving mother, the protective caring brother, and the toughest kid I’ve ever known.