As you may know, I’m running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon this Sunday in support of the SickKids Foundation. I wanted to share with you a story about my friend Elizabeth, who has a very personal connection with the Hospital for Sick Children.
Elizabeth White was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition when she was a baby.
When she was 10 months old, she flew to SickKids hospital from Calgary for her first of what was to be many surgeries. When she was 5 years old, she had her first open heart surgery at SickKids.
Her congenital heart condition (pulmonary artesia tetralogy fallot, to be specific) is not genetic. At this point, doctors still don’t know what causes this condition. Here’s what SickKids has to say about Elizabeth’s condition:
“Congenital heart defects occur in about one out of every 100 babies born each year and more than 10 per cent of defects involve the pulmonary valve. The pulmonary valve prevents blood from leaking back into the right-sided pumping chamber. When defective, the pulmonary valve can obstruct flow to the lungs, cause breathing problems and fatigue, and can lead to heart failure. Children with congenital heart defects often have to undergo multiple open-heart surgeries, prolonged hospital stays and long recovery periods.”
In 2006, Elizabeth’s doctors at SickKids gave her the opportunity to be one of the first six people in Canada to undergo an innovative cardiac procedure. This procedure would use a catheter technique to replace a pulmonary valve, thus eliminating the need for children like Elizabeth to have multiple open heart surgeries.
The minimally invasive procedure, performed in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, can take as little as 90 minutes and means that the patient can go home the next day, rather than experience the lengthy recovery of open heart surgery.
I chatted with Elizabeth, a friend from choir, about why SickKids needs our support.
“I basically grew up with the doctors and nurses at SickKids,” she said. “It was usually the same people working with me, from someone putting on my holter monitor to someone doing my ECG. There were always familiar faces who knew me and always took the time to answer my questions.”
People sometimes feel that the SickKids Foundation is a charity that gets a lot of support already, so I asked Elizabeth why it’s important for us to continue to give it support. “It’s the top children’s hospital in the world, but they still don’t have all the answers. For example, though the treatment of my condition is getting better and less-invasive, they still don’t know what causes it, because it’s not genetic.” Elizabeth stressed that SickKids had the facilities to do tests and catch things before they became an emergency.
Elizabeth is now 23 and graduated from York with a degree in music; voice, to be specific. Singing can be strenuous on the body, and it’s thanks to the team at SickKids that she is as healthy as she is today.
On Sunday, I’m running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon for the SickKids Foundation. I’m close to reaching my goal of $500, but I still need help! Please consider donating even $10. It will make a difference to someone like Elizabeth. Thank you so much.