The Mosconas: Local Parents of a Miracle

Drew is 18 months and sitting at my feet surrounded by therapeutic and everyday toys. He cries out, “Mama!” and hums as he plays with his toys, chewing on his giraffe and occasionally, his toes.  Now, Matt jokes, “We worry about him eating his pants and his feet.”  How far they’ve come.  Erika and Matt lovingly gaze at their toddler because every day with him is a miracle.  From a harrowing diagnosis at Erika’s nineteen weeks ultrasound to seven months in the Texas Children’s NICU in Houston, the Mosconas have journeyed a long way.  Here they are today, though, all gathered together in their beautiful home with Drew playing on the rug cheerfully.

It was an Ash Wednesday two years ago that changed Erika and Matt’s lives.  First time parents, the couple eagerly awaited a positive report during Erika’s nineteen week ultrasound.  The technician could not deliver the expected news and instead informed them that she was taking them to their OBGYN immediately.  Erika panicked and her mind ran wild with possible scenarios.  Once their doctor analyzed the sonogram, she informed them their son had Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH).  This defect occurs when the diaphragm fails to form or to close totally, and an opening allows abdominal organs into the chest cavity. This failure inhibits lung growth and can endanger other organs.  Stunned with this news, Erika and Matt floundered in shock.  Once Matt regained his composure, he quickly got to researching and discovered that one of the hospitals that specialized in CDH was Texas Children’s in Houston.  Erika and Matt, after a series of letdowns and even more worrisome diagnoses, such as a heart defect and a chromosomal deletion, focused on all they could do to assure the best care for Drew.  Their final decision was inevitable: they decided to move to Houston.

The Mosconas questioned how they could continue their lives in Houston during this difficult time. Matt is one of the recognizable voices of our Baton Rouge 104.5 ESPN affiliate. He hosts the afternoon show, “After Further Review.”  Erika, on the other hand, is the guidance counselor at St. Jude the Apostle School here in Baton Rouge. Both Matt and Erika gushed about how generous and supportive their professional communities were in standing by them through Drew’s birth and following seven months in Houston. Matt was able to continue his show in Houston through a neighboring studio that allowed him to broadcast.  After Drew’s birth, Erika and Matt spent nearly all of their time in the NICU.  For seven months.  They formed bonds there with nurses and staff, some of which that have grown even stronger even after they left. They also grew close to other families there. The NICU is an “emotional rollercoaster.” One moment Drew would have great progress, and in another moment, another family would lose their child.  In addition to the trauma of their own son’s wires and monitors and the unknown, they shared in the successes and heartaches of the families around them.  As Drew endured surgery after surgery, procedure after procedure, Erika and Matt were right by his side. They drew upon their faith and their family support every day.

Faith plays an integral and irreplaceable role in their lives. They prayed and prayed for Drew, are still praying for Drew. Matt shared that Drew’s life, even in just eighteen months, has affected so many. They receive prayers and financial support every day from strangers and listeners of the show. Some individuals have even shared that their faith has been strengthened because of their praying for Drew. Matt explained, “I believe in tithing. That what we give to God He gives back to us.” He is in awe that they are still afloat financially after the past two years.  The financial weight of Drew’s care came as a blunt shock to the Mosconas when they returned from Houston.  After the NICU stay, their medical bills tabulated near $3 million.  They assured me that insurance covered a great deal of that, but not all. Caring for Drew includes multiple medicines, bags for feeding tubes at $8 a piece, therapies, and other costs that multiply. Despite these heavy costs, it’s been the provision of God that has carried them.  Friends, community, and several fundraisers have continued to give and support Drew and the Mosconas. Matt declares that by receiving all of the gifts and prayers, they are a part of God’s massive plan to hand out His grace to those who give to others. He uses the term “galvanized” to describe the periods of hope and faith they have discovered. Both Erika and Matt cannot speak enough about the love they have received from the Baton Rouge community. This love has continued to restore their hope for Drew to have a healthy life. 

When it comes to love, this couple may seem young, having been married around just four years, but their love for one another is strong and deep, having been tested through the fire. When I asked them what they have learned about each other, Erika quickly answers that Matt’s determination and perseverance have carried them.  She says that he attacks every issue head on, “like Rocky.” From the moment Drew was diagnosed in utero, Matt has researched, made phone calls, talked to doctors, and taken initiative to confront CDH.  Erika’s eyes well with tears as she looks at her husband, thankful that he takes action and “solves problems. No matter the cost.” Though she proclaims her emotions have taken a toll on her and that she’s the one “who cries all the time,” Matt exalts her nurturing spirit and her physical actions to assure Drew gets what he needs.  During the tenuous pregnancy full of fear and anxiety, Erika, despite her tears, took great care of herself, knowing Drew needed every extra supplement, every walk, every nutritious meal for strength. They both insist that they “complement each other,” strengthening one another in areas where the other may be weak. 

During our conversation on this Thursday, Matt and Erika speak in detailed medical jargon that is foreign to me, but it flows seamlessly in and out of their vernacular.  Like most special needs parents, they have become experts on the medical issues of their child. They have become so well versed in CDH that they can help walk others through the process. Though they are quick to clarify that every child’s diagnosis and path is different, they are also adequately prepared to offer support to any parent going through a similar trial.  Both Erika and Matt stress the empowering phrase, “Be your child’s biggest and greatest advocate.” They have learned through Drew’s seven surgeries and countless hours at his bedside to always ask questions and stay involved. Erika emphasizes how important it is to be almost overinvolved so that she or any other parent can make sense of the medical jigsaw puzzle that awaits once the child returns home.  

Home. That word became another prayer for the Mosconas those 213 days in Houston. Texas. They are so grateful to be home with their miracle.  When they first arrived back in Baton Rouge one year ago, Drew was on a strict regimen of thirty medicines. He was on oxygen day and night.  I asked the couple how they handled the anxiety each day. They responded that they celebrate each milestone when he “sheds” a medicine or a tube. When he came off of oxygen during the day and then during the night, they celebrated. Now, Drew is down to eight medicines! He only has a G-tube (Gastrostomy tube) for his feedings. At this moment he is crawling around unencumbered, and Erika beams at him.  “He’s free now,” she declares, so relieved. She picks him up and holds him, places him in a Bumbo and feeds him some applesauce. He eats well, murmuring approval with each bite. This very act is cause for a celebration. 

Drew currently has occupational therapy and feeding/speech therapy twice a week to help develop his motor and speech skills. When I ask Matt about the anxiety, he answers that he “only needed to be concerned when his doctors were concerned” and that having Drew home and off oxygen alleviates much of that worry. Matt adds, “Moments like this is why we did everything we did…seeing him happy is the only validation that I need.”

Erika and Matt both share that watching their baby boy go through so many invasive procedures, being attached to wires, and virtually tied to a bed is traumatic in itself, but to see him sit here, laughing and smiling, makes that pain and fear all worth it.  Erika marvels that the “timing has been incredible.” For any other parents out there in our community that may be dealing with intensive diagnoses, the couple advises, “Pray and surround yourself with people that will fight for your child and support you.” 

Erika and Matt Moscona feel so indebted to the community of Baton Rouge for the fight and support that has been given to them and to Drew. Through ESPN 104.5 Matt has an awesome platform of influence that has truly blessed the family. His radio show, as well as WAFB’s Jacques Doucet, have given awareness and support to Drew and the cause of CDH through fundraisers like “Red, Rock, and Drew” and other events. St. Jude and Holy Family Catholic Churches have also extended so much love and fundraisers that the Mosconas feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

This family is amazed every day by the goodness of God and the goodness of others. They are reminded each time they look at Drew and hold their boy that “miracles happen.”




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27 Jul 2016

By Joy Holden

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