Mother’s Day Love: Mom Fights for Baby Given 25% Chance to Survive

Opinion   |   Brad Mattes   |   May 10, 2013   |   12:09PM   |   Washington, DC

In view of Mother’s Day, we reflect on how very few things in life can compare to the love of a mother for her child. When a child faces an illness or disability, somehow that maternal bond becomes even stronger and more beautiful. Losing that opportunity to love a little miracle is just one reason abortion is such a tragedy.

Little nine-month-old Ryan Black is one of those miracles. He has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means that the left side of his heart didn’t develop in the womb. When he was born, he had severe breathing difficulties and had to be rushed 50 miles to a special heart unit at another hospital. He was given only a 25-percent chance of survival. At just eight-days-old, Ryan had his first open heart surgery—his second just two days later. Surgeons inserted a shunt that would pump blood from his lungs to his body. He was placed on a ventilator and his mother, Sally Ann Charlton, remained vigilant at his side.

In an interview with the newspaper Daily Mail, she confessed how helpless she felt in those early days. She compared it to a roller coaster ride, yet her strength for her son never wavered. She said, “I’m a very positive person anyway, you have to be. You have to fight as much as you can.” Ryan clearly inherited his mother’s fighting spirit. He continued to amaze the doctors with his progress.

At the age of six months, Ryan endured yet another heart surgery because he’d outgrown the original shunt. They removed the shunt and now a vein in his neck is used to supply his body with oxygen. He’ll have to undergo another open-heart surgery before he turns five to keep up with his body’s growth. Ryan’s now home and doing quite well. His five-year-old sister, Eva, helps to care for him, and Sally Ann lovingly calls her his second nurse. He must sleep on a mat equipped with sensors, which will sound an alarm if he stops breathing. He’ll also need an oxygen saturation monitor and other equipment in the future. Sally Ann has since focused her efforts on fundraising. She raised enough for Ryan’s equipment and is now raising more for the charity Keep The Beat. The specialist heart unit is currently facing potential closure, so her efforts are going directly to assist those who were there for her at a time of need. She says, “It’s just nice to be able to give something back and feel like you are helping other families going through similar experiences.” While Ryan’s heart may have been physically imperfect, it’s still perfect for a mother’s love. I’m certain this first Mother’s Day with Ryan is going to be an extra special one for Sally Ann.



All too often, when a condition such as Ryan’s is diagnosed prenatally, the medical community is quick to offer abortion. With a bleak prognosis, parents can be understandably frightened and overwhelmed. Yet, that’s when it’s vital that they remain the strongest advocate for their child. I’ve met with many brave mothers who’ve faced uncertainty and challenges. Their dedication is such an encouragement to me.

Their stories are all unique, but the common thread is a mother’s unyielding love. That amazing gift of love is something to be celebrated, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day. Note: Bradley Mattes is the executive director of Life Issues Institute, a national pro-life educational group.