February is Heart Month and there is no better month to raise awareness for Congential Heart Defects and for the Labatt Family Heart Centre at SickKids. It is no secret that my family loves SickKids Hospital in Toronto for all that it did for our son Zack. When Zack was first born, he was diagnosed with Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Drainage (TAPVD), essentially meaning that blood was not flowing properly to and from the heart to the lungs. As we learned more about Zack’s condition, we soon realized that the statistics are staggering- every 1 in 100 babies are born with a heart defect.
We waited day by day, wondering when the surgery date would be. When Zack was two weeks old, it was determined that he was too sick to wait for open heart surgery and our prayers were answered when the world renowned surgeon Dr. Glen Van Ardell was chosen to perform his life-threatening procedure. I’ll never forget those last few moments we shared with Zack before surgery, walking him down the hallway in our arms. We gave him a kiss and trusted him into the arms of the SickKids nurse and into the hands of the brilliant surgeons. Our critically ill son underwent the Coles procedure, which had been developed at the Labatt Heart Centre at SickKids Hospital, to repair the connection. No words could ever explain our fear and worry at that time in our lives, we lived moment to moment, knowing in our own hearts that he was being cared for by the best in the world.
When Zack was brought back to his room in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit, we saw the huge opening where they had repaired his heart. With his heart too swollen to close up the incision, it lay covered with a clear tape and guaze with the words “open”. As the doctors surrounded his bed to examine his incision, we were left breathless when they removed the gauze and we saw our little son’s beating heart. It was in that moment that I knew we had witnessed the incredible medical miracles that happen everyday at SickKids. As Zack got older, he wore that beautiful scar as a badge of honour- forever solidifying his membership in the “cardiac zipper kid” club.
Consider a Heartfelt Gift this Valentine’s Day, in support of the Labatt Family Heart Centre and to provide much needed help to kids, like Zack, at SickKids hospital.