When little Laura of Saskatoon was born, she appeared to be in perfect health. Only seven hours later, nothing seemed perfect at all.
With a sudden drop in blood sugar and some discoloration on her lips, Laura was quickly whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to be checked out. It wasn’t long until doctors confirmed she had a congenital heart defect that was preventing her body from absorbing the oxygen being taken in through her lungs. Open heart surgery was needed immediately and Laura was airlifted to Edmonton at only two days old.
“We took everything one day and one moment at a time,” said Laura’s mom Sarah. “We focused on the little triumphs that we saw from Laura and put our trust in the team in Edmonton and our faith in God.”
Surgery was six hours long but successful. Laura recovered remarkably well for the first few days, but on day nine she suddenly went into cardiac arrest. Doctors acted fast and performed CPR on Laura for 90 minutes. She was placed on full life support and underwent a cardiac catheterization, three surgical procedures and an emergency open heart surgery all within 24 hours.
Laura fought hard to make a comeback and after five days, she was well enough to come off life support. Meanwhile, Laura’s parents met with doctors to discuss the possibility of a heart transplant. It was a likely scenario, but her surgeon wanted to try once more to save her heart. This was the most complex surgery she faced, and Laura was placed on a mechanical heart for 9 days to allow her heart to rest.
“She was able to come off the breathing tube and we held her for the first time since she was a newborn,” said Sarah. “At a certain point we had seen Laura bounce back from so much that it became easier to trust in the process and have faith that she would come out of it.”
Just as things were looking up and Laura was moved out of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), she went into cardiac arrest once again. After seven minutes of compressions, her heart began to beat again. As Laura was being transported back to the PICU, she suffered another cardiac arrest. Her heart simply could not function on its own, and it was time for a heart transplant.
Waiting for a new heart took 54 days. For 51 of those days, she was placed on the Berlin Mechanical Heart, which allowed her to prepare for such a major surgery while also learning how to sit up and reach developmental milestones. Four days before turning four months old, Laura received her new heart.
“This heart brought with it the hope for a new life – a life outside the hospital, away from wires and tubes and a life where she could take swimming lessons and ride a bike,” wrote Sarah in her online blog of Laura’s journey
Laura’s new heart has boosted her ability to grow, and today she is healthy and thriving. She visits the Pediatric Outpatient Cardiology Clinic (also called the Frog Pod) in the new Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital every three months. She will also require blood work at least once a month and immune-suppressants for the rest of her life to ensure she doesn’t reject her heart.
“As difficult as it was, we wouldn’t have traded it for the world,” wrote Sarah. “We had Laura home and in between all the medications and tube feeds and shots, we played, read stories, sang songs, and enjoyed having the most normal family life that we had ever experienced.”