AGE: In this photo she’s 1 1/2 years old
DIAGNOSIS: Tetralogy of Fallot, Pulmonary Atresia, and MAPCAS
DIAGNOSED: at birth
To close CHD Awareness Week, I wanted to share the story of a very special heart warrior. If I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet Abby and her family, I might never have become involved in the awareness for CHD, like I have. Abby’s story has been shared in numerous newspaper articles, on her website We Believe In Abby and her We Believe In Abby facebook page. Her story has touched the hearts of not only her immediate community but anyone who has heard her story.
It was recognized immediately after Abby’s birth that something was wrong. Abby’s mom Becky had barely had a chance to hold Abby. It was then they knew there was a problem and it didn’t take long to suspect there was an issue with Abby’s heart. In no time she was being transferred to SickKids.
It was determined Abby had a rare congenital heart defect. She was born without her pulmonary artery which carries blood from the right ventricle of the heart to the lungs to become enriched with oxygen and sent back to the heart. Abby underwent her first open heart surgery at 14 hours old. She was 8 days old when her mom could hold her for the very first time! They were able to take her home a week later only to rush Abby back to the hospital at 5 weeks old. After a heart catheterization, it was discovered her right pulmonary artery had become constricted. Abby then had her second open heart surgery which was the only hope at keeping Abby alive. She remained on ECMO(an extreme form of life support) for two weeks. This surgery was a success except for a severe infection which required another surgery to clean out the area.
Just before her first birthday Abby had another heart cath to help balloon her arteries and take images. She would then qualify for her third open heart surgery in October. Abby was recovering from this surgery and still on ECMO when she required an emergency heart catheterization which was very risky. Abby was a fighter and survived that as well. She went on to have numerous infections and the odds stacked against her. After 12 emotional weeks in the hospital, Abby defied those odds, and went home in January!
Abby’s parents had started a Pay It Forward attitude while Abby was in the hospital which had caught on in her community and beyond. People were performing random acts of kindness to strangers. You can read more about it in The Toronto Star.
The We Believe In Abby Family Day held its first annual event that June to give back to the community as well as raise money for SickKids hospital. It has raised thousands of dollars the last 4 years!
But sadly, not all stories have that happy ending. After a courageous battle, Abby went into cardiac arrest this past October 24, and passed away. Abby was 5 years old. It was a devastating loss not only for her family and friends, but the community as well. This little fighter gained her angel wings but left the biggest hole in everyone’s hearts. Bright pink ribbons started to show up on trees and lamp posts not only in her Schomberg community but neighbouring ones as well. A Go Fund Me page raised over $28,000 in three days. Her memorial service had to be held in the local arena to accommodate the hundreds of people attending.
Abby was small but mighty and was such an inspiration to many in her 5 short years. She will be greatly missed but her legacy will live on. Fundraising efforts are underway to build a memorial park in her name. This will be a park for the community, for families to enjoy and host community events. Donations can be made here.
Finally, I cannot say it any better than the quote on her website….
“While only with us a for a short time. Abby helped shape the spirit of an entire town and her legacy wll be with us for many years to come.
Although she never had the heart she deserved, our hearts are all larger because of her.”