From The Heart, for Kids Like Lauren

Fifteen years ago, Traci and Tony Migliarese received the surprise of their lives. The couple was elated to become parents to twin girls, Lauren and Kennedy, to count 20 fingers and 20 toes and enjoy double the kisses and cuddles. They had no idea, though, that Lauren had a serious problem with her heart. That is, until it nearly stopped.

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After a healthy pregnancy, Traci and Tony were completely shocked when doctors told them Lauren had a serious heart defect called pulmonary atresia with intact ventricular septum. The valve controlling blood flow from the heart to the lungs was not fully formed, and the right ventricle was underdeveloped and too small.

As soon as she arrived, Lauren struggled to breathe. Rather than spending the next couple days in her parents’ arms, she was in an operating room, undergoing urgent open-heart surgery.

Every year in Alberta, nearly 1,000 babies are born with congenital heart defects, and in half of those cases, their parents were completely unaware. You can help make earlier detection of these anomalies possible so parents like Traci and Tony are prepared for the medical journey ahead.

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“Is she going to be in the hospital all the time? Will she always be weak and frail? So much of our stress was not being prepared for these questions, and the fear of the unknown.” – Lauren's mom, Traci

As they spent the summer isolating themselves from visitors to avoid infecting Lauren with illnesses, Traci and Tony scrambled to learn as much about their baby’s condition as possible. At five months old, she underwent her second major operation to fix her heart at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, the province’s pediatric cardiac surgical centre, in Edmonton. While recovering from unfortunate complications from the surgery, the family were grateful to spent eight weeks at the Alberta Children’s Hospital with their home team of cardiology experts, all while learning to navigate their new, busy life with twins.

For the last decade, congenital heart defects have been on the rise in Alberta, often leading to emergency intervention at birth and lifelong illness for children like Lauren. Now a teenager, she has spent her entire life under the watchful eye of her cardiology team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

“We’ve been so grateful for the care Lauren and our entire family have received on this journey. However, it was gut-wrenching learning about our baby girl’s heart condition as she was hooked up to oxygen support and machines,” says Tony. “Knowing ahead of time that we’d be walking this road would have made those early days and months so much easier.”

Today, Lauren is a healthy, active, volleyball player, who just marked her 15th birthday. Her team of specialists at the Alberta Children’s Hospital keep a close eye on her heart and watch for signs that another surgery, to replace the repaired valve, might be required in the future.

“I am so thankful to everyone who had a hand in saving my life,” says Lauren. “Because of them, I can do all the things my friends can do, and my wish for all babies born with conditions like mine is that they get the chance to grow up healthy too.”

Twenty-five years ago, babies like Lauren may not have survived. Support from generous people like you helps to advance care for children born with serious heart defects like Lauren, so not only can they survive, but also thrive. Now is a unique opportunity to support groundbreaking research to save and change more children’s lives.

A team of scientists at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute believe earlier identification of heart defects is possible – through a simple blood test. Their work has the potential to revolutionize prenatal care here and around the world, giving babies born with heart defects the best chance at a healthy life.

We hope we can count on you to give, knowing every dollar donated through this campaign will be matched by CPKC to go even further to help kids like Lauren live their healthiest lives possible.

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Your support will go TWICE as far

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By making your gift today, you can help make a life-saving, life-changing difference for hundreds of babies each year. Thanks to CPKC, your gift will be matched!