Before 7-year-old Hayley of Regina had a chance to enter the world as a healthy newborn, troubles with her health had already begun. During a routine ultrasound at 20 weeks into her mom’s pregnancy, doctors discovered Hayley had an alarming heart defect – one that remained a mystery until her birth.
The discovery stunned parents Donna and Ian, especially once they learned that Hayley would need to be delivered in Saskatoon to ensure a pediatric cardiologist could be close by. Following Hayley’s arrival, it was clear that her heart had only two functioning chambers instead of the usual four.
“The most frightening part was the unknown,” said Ian. “There was a sense of helplessness. We would do anything for this wonderful little child that has entered our lives, and sometimes we could do nothing but hold a tiny hand.”
With only one side of her heart functioning, doctors had to act fast. Hayley went through many rounds of blood work and tests to see how her heart was performing, which required continual hospital stays over the next six months. The family found themselves spending more time inside hospital walls in Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton than they did at home. Hayley was able to avoid surgery for the first few months of life which allowed her tiny body to grow stronger and be able to better handle such a dramatic procedure, but at six months old it was eventually time.
“Taking her in for surgery was an eerie feeling,” explained Ian. “You know you’re doing the absolute correct thing, but it’s also terrifying to hand your child off to a team of strangers who are going to complete a very complex procedure, one that is potentially life-threatening, on someone you love more than anything in the world.”
The first surgery helped, but Hayley still needed “part two” of the procedure. At two years old, she took on another surgery that restored her oxygen levels to make up for her heart’s inability to separate the oxygenated and non-oxygenated blood. The procedure was key to Hayley’s success – her health immediately improved and she was on track for a healthy childhood.
Today Hayley is full of energy and loves camping, swimming, gymnastics and playing with her little sister. Though she still requires close monitoring by her pediatrician and yearly visits to her pediatric cardiologist, she doesn’t let much hold her back from being a normal kid.
“Unless you look closely for a few faint scars, you would not differentiate her from any other girl in grade two,” said Ian. “Today she can do anything her friends can do.”