Sometimes Life Throws A Curveball
Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Josh Lindblom is at Riley Hospital for Children soothing his daughter, Monroe. It’s exactly where he wants to be.
Monroe is there in her little turquoise sleeper, dotted with bright pink flowers, crying.
Josh Lindblom is leaning over her crib at Riley Hospital For Children, rubbing her arm, telling her everything is OK.
His wife, Aurielle, is there, too. She’s talking about how the couple has a new perspective on life. How things that used to seem so big – major league sports, for example -- don’t seem so big anymore.
And how the little things in their world – a family night at home – seem so much more important now, so huge.
Josh Lindblom is a 29-year-old Major League pitcher, who signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in December. The Purdue University baseball standout, who grew up in Lafayette and has played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics, is used to games that don’t always go the way he’d want.
He’s used to pitches that fly awry. He’s used to winning and losing and giving it everything he’s got.
But nothing could have prepared him for what happened in July, when life threw a curveball at him he never expected.
He was in Korea, playing for the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization. He was there with his family – Aurielle, daughter Presley, now 3, and son Palmer, now 2.
It was July of 2016 and the couple, high school sweethearts in Lafayette who married in 2011, were expecting their third baby, a girl.
Aurielle was scheduled for an ultrasound. It would be her sixth. In Korea, doctors performed the diagnostic test at every appointment and the other five had seemed normal.
“My mom was with me; she had just flown into town,” Aurielle said. “I told her, ‘Come with me. You can see her, see the baby.’ It went south pretty fast.”
It was at that appointment the Lindbloms found out Monroe had Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, a rare condition where the right side structures of the heart are underdeveloped. Chambers, valves and related blood vessels on the right side also are often malformed.
Aurielle flew home to Indiana. When Josh’s season ended, he flew home, too. Monroe was born at IU Health Methodist Hospital on Oct. 20.
“I literally got to see her 30 seconds and then they took her away,” Aurielle said.
Monroe was sent to the neonatal intensive care unit at Riley. A week later, she was on an operating table for an open-heart surgery.
Josh will never forget the roller coaster of emotions and the worry as they sat waiting for Monroe to come out of an 8-hour surgery. He will never forget what it was like to walk into that room and see her afterward.
“The baby they took back eight hours earlier is not the baby that you see,” Josh says. “She didn’t look like the baby we knew.”
Monroe was on a ventilator. She was swollen. She had so many tubes coming from her body. For Aurielle, it was after the surgery when things got scary.
All they wanted was for Monroe to pull through and go home. Eventually, she did.
Home is Lafayette now. Back to where they both grew up. Work for Josh isn’t the Pirates. He is playing for the Indianapolis Indians to be closer to Riley, a 5-minute drive from the Indians’ ballpark Victory Field.
“It was like a no-brainer to sign with the Pirates,” Josh said. “Worst case scenario if I’m not in the major leagues is I’m playing in Indy and just driving back and forth every day.”
And he is able to be at Riley whenever he needs to be.
Monroe comes to the hospital several times a month, for cardiology, to see a GI specialist and for developmental pediatrics. She eats through a feeding tube and, last Thursday, she was back at Riley with vomiting issues.
But on Tuesday, Monroe was well enough to go home. As the family packed up, that’s when she started crying. And that’s when Josh leaned over her hospital crib and started soothing her.
It’s exactly where he wants to be, right by his daughter’s side, he said. Helping his wife and being there for his other two children.
“I don’t think you could have a child like her and not be changed,” Aurielle says. “It puts life in perspective.”