Little Blaze's birth mother asked nurse Angela Farnan to keep the baby boy, who was born with a rare heart defect

By Susan Keating
June 28, 2019 10:00 AM
Shelli Dankoff

Pediatric intensive care nurse Angela Farnan loves her tiny patients so much, she considers them family, telling people she has 15-20 children, depending on the day. When a patient’s birth family asked her to adopt their medically fragile infant, Farnan — who can’t have biological children of her own — eagerly agreed. Now Farnan, 53, and her husband Rick, 57, are forever family to little Blaze, who has a rare heart defect.

“We love Blaze so much,” Angela tells PEOPLE. “We are so happy to have him.”

Blaze was born on May 30, 2017, at the OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, where Angela is a charge nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Before he was born, Blaze was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a life-threatening condition that leaves one side of the heart too small.

When Blaze was just three days old, he had his first open heart surgery. Afterwards, he went into Angela’s PICU, where he won over his caregivers.

“This little guy has such personality,” Angela says. “I was just drawn to him.”

Blaze’s parents lived far from the hospital and were raising their other young children. With Blaze’s parents not able to be there consistently, the doctors, nurses and hospital staff became Blaze’s family.

For more on the Farnans’ journey with Blaze, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday. 

Blaze
Angela Farnan

In December 2017, Blaze no longer needed to stay in the hospital, but he required intensive care that his family couldn’t provide. The Farnans agreed to be temporary foster parents. They agreed to keep him until March 20, the date of his second procedure.

During that time, “We fell in love with him,” says Rick.

“Going into the second surgery was very tough on us because we didn’t want to say goodbye to him,” Angela says. “But we were prepared to give him up.”

In the hospital following the surgery, though, Blaze’s mother made an unexpected, heartfelt request. In Blaze’s best interest, she asked, would the Farnans please keep him?

Without hesitation, the tearfully overjoyed couple agreed. The adoption was finalized last June.

RELATED: Nurse Adopts Baby with Rare Heart Condition She Cared for in ICU: ‘I Fell in Love with Him’ 

Rick and Angela Farnan with Blaze
Jim Carlson, OSF HealthCare

A band of nurses has rallied to help watch Blaze whenever Angela and Rick, who runs a waste oil furnace business, cannot be there.

“He’s never without anyone who isn’t ultra-qualified to watch him,” Rick says. “We’ve become a family of all these people who jumped in to help.”

Typically, children like Blaze — who faces one more surgery by the time he is 5 — tire more easily than others. Not Blaze.

“He is full of energy and doesn’t seem to tire at all,” Angela says.

Blaze
Jim Carlson, OSF HealthCare

The spunky tyke knows how to find his favorite YouTube videos on his mom’s iPad. Blaze and Angela even have their own song: Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” which, Angela says, is “appropriate, because with Blaze’s condition, he really has turned blue.”

Life with Blaze has been “amazing,” the couple says.

Adds Angela: “Sometimes I wake up and pinch myself and ask, ‘Is this real?’ Then I look over and yes, he’s still here.”

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