Fox News anchor Bret Baier's 6-year-old son, Paul, recently underwent his third open-heart surgery. He's also had seven angioplasties and a stomach surgery.
Each procedure is torture for his parents.
"It never gets easier," said Baier, Fox's chief political anchor, who has reported from Iraq and Afghanistan. "Every time we go in and have to hand him over and they knock him out and we watch him roll away — that's fear to the nth degree. Every time."
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In his new book, "Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage and Love" (Center Street), Baier recounts the trials and triumphs he and his family have experienced since Paul, their first child, was born in 2007 with five congenital heart defects. He had his first heart surgery at 12 days old.
The Washington, D.C.,-based Baier will be signing copies of his book at noon Wednesday at Books-A-Million, 144 S. Clark St. We chatted by phone in advance of his appearance. Following is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Q: How is your son doing right now?
A: You'd never know he had a heart condition by watching him on the playground. He's the tallest kid in his class and he's running and jumping and climbing. We were joking with his heart surgeon, "Maybe you did a little too good a job." He's doing great.
Q: What is his long-term prognosis?
A: He might need another open-heart surgery in 6 to 8 years and, if we're lucky, that will be his last one. He'll need more angioplasties along the way — the doctors call them tune-ups — but he's got a great prognosis. And he can do anything ... barring football or any contact to his chest.
Q: You've mentioned that Paul's health has changed your perspective on work-life balance. Tell me more about that.
A: The silver lining to something as horrible as this is that we found a cause for our charity work (Baier says he's donating all of his book proceeds to pediatric heart research) and it also gives me perspective as a person and as an anchor. I can be up here on Capitol Hill with the back-and-forth and two parties at each other's throats and I come at it from a different place than I did before. I realize now how important it is to pull away from work and really be off during you're time off.
Q: Is each surgery as difficult for you as the first one?
A: For us it's gotten harder because Paul understands what's going on now. Now there's the psychological part of taking him through each one, having him own the condition. Before this last surgery he was having a hard time breathing after running around and he said to us, "I want to go in and get my heart fixed."
Q: How do you think Paul has been shaped by his experiences?
A: Paul is a strong kid. I think he has the sense that he can get through anything. During the last angioplasty I spent the night with him at the hospital and he turned to me and said, "Daddy, why do I have to do all these heart things and other kids in my class don't have to?" It kind of hung in the air a little bit and then I said, "God has a plan for you and he's testing you and you're passing the test. You're going to do great things." I know he will.