Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

After heart surgery, baby Piper is home


Piper, daughter of Andy Dahl and Daphne Bergsten of Sturgeon Lake, underwent open heart surgery October 6.

Piper is home!

Baby Piper came home last Sunday, October 25. She recovered much faster than anticipated after undergoing open heart surgery October 6.

Piper is the 3½-month-old daughter of Andy Dahl and Daphne Bergsten of Sturgeon Lake.

It all started when Piper was born.

"She was born a little bit early," said Andy. "The doctors didn't think anything was wrong with her. No one knew that anything was wrong until her two-month checkup."

He added she weighed 5 pounds, 6 ounces at the time of her birth.

Piper wasn't growing like a normal healthy baby.

"At her two-month checkup she was only 6 pounds," Andy said. "The day after her two-month checkup they sent her to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis and they discovered holes in her heart with an echocardiogram. "

"That was 100 percent shocking news," said Daphne. "But it definitely helped us to understand why she wasn't getting bigger."

The doctors told Andy and Daphne they wanted Piper to get a little bigger and healthier before performing surgery to fix the holes in her heart, they said.

"It was shortly after that two-month checkup when she got really sick," Daphne explained. "She wouldn't take her bottle, and when she did, she would vomit.

"We took her to the emergency room in Moose Lake and they sent her to the emergency room in Duluth. From there they took her by ambulance to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. That's when I knew it was serious. It was going to take more than feeding tubes and IVs."

"It was September 29 when we were admitted to Children's Hospital," said Andy. "They still weren't sure. But on October 2 they informed us that she was scheduled for surgery on October 6."

Before the surgery, the doctors drew a diagram for Andy and Daphne to show them how they were going to repair Piper's heart.

"It was much more complex than a simple break in the bone that you usually see on x-rays," said Andy. "I stayed down there most of the time for those first couple of weeks. I only worked half time."

Andy is employed at Moose Lake Implement, and Daphne is employed at First National Bank.

"I extended my maternity leave," Daphne said.

It wasn't only their employment and home that were concerns, the couple has another daughter, 4½-year-old Layla.

"She was taken care of," said Andy. "Between grandpa and grandma and friends, they juggled her around. She was having fun with it."

After the surgery, the doctors warned the parents it could take six to eight weeks before Piper was well enough to come home from the hospital.

"We just found out this morning (Saturday) we can bring her home tomorrow," said Andy.

"She was shocking the doctors and nurses down there because she was doing so well."

"They were taking her off of her medications day by day," added Daphne. "She was responding really well. We are extremely fortunate. Everything is going smoothly at this time."

However, even though Piper was being released from the hospital, there are still restrictions.

"Her immune system needs to be stronger," said Andy. "Other than some medicine we have to give her, everything is healed up. She'll be a normal baby."

"She won't be able to go to day care," said Daphne. "She can't catch a cold. We will have to keep Layla healthy so she won't be giving any sickness to Piper."

"She will still have some challenges every day," added Andy.

The community has gathered around the family and supported them through this crisis.

Andy is an assistant coach for the Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels, and is grateful for their support.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "The coaches covered for me just fine. Louzek (head coach Dave Louzek) is as good and fine a guy that you could ever want to know.

"You just don't know how good people are. The whole Rebel family has been very supportive."

The couple has insurance but don't know yet how much of Piper's expenses will be covered.

"At that point, we didn't care about paperwork," said Andy.

"All we were concerned about was what was going on with our baby," added Daphne.

As they look to the future, the couple wants to pay it forward.

"We want to find a way to be a resource for other heart families," said Daphne.

"We talked to a lot of people who were going through this," added Andy. "They helped us. We want to be there for other families of cardiac patients."

"There is no way we can ever show our full gratitude," said Daphne. "All we can do is show it on a day-to-day basis."

"We want to thank our families, friends, the community and our places of employment," said Andy. "There hasn't been a person who hasn't been supportive."

"Even people we hardly know have been supportive," said Daphne. "It has been overwhelming."

The couple is also thankful for the monetary donations.

"Those really have helped," said Daphne. "Sometimes there was a bill that we didn't know how to pay but the money has come in."

Daphne also thanks the Ronald McDonald House, where she stayed when she was in Minneapolis with Piper.

"They were wonderful," she said. "I encourage everyone to support the Ronald McDonald House. They provide a place to stay at no charge for families of patients."

A Piper's Heart Fund benefit will be held on Saturday, November 28, at Holy Angels Catholic Church from 2-6 p.m.

Donations can also be taken at First National Bank for Piper Blu Dahl or online at


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