Bulli boy Koa Tarrant was just eight days old when he was diagnosed with congenital heart disease – with open-heart surgery the only cure.
Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the single biggest cause of death in children under the age of one in Australia – eight babies are born with a heart defect every day, and four precious lives are lost each week.
February 14 is HeartKids’ Sweetheart Day, a national awareness campaign where all Australians can show their support for the tens of thousands affected by CHD.
For Bulli parents Heidi and Patrick Tarrant, HeartKids helped steer them through the “rollercoaster ride” Koa’s diagnosis took them on.
“Koa was eight days old when we were sent to the emergency room up in Sydney by our GP as Koa was working too hard with his breathing,” Ms Tarrant said.
“After long hours of being monitored Koa got diagnosed with VSD (ventricular septal defect) and we got the shocking news that the open heart surgery would be most likely the only way to try to fix his little heart.
“Koa’s open heart surgery was done when he was nine months old. The surgery was successful and we have been very lucky as ever since Koa has been well from a cardiac point of view.”
Ms Tarrant said finding the national charity gave her and her husband “great comfort and hope” and the realisation they were not alone.
“HeartKids has been magical to us,” she said. “Looking after a child with a medical condition is overwhelming and isolating sometimes. It was also shocking to realise that there are so many of us.
“(On Sweetheart Day) our family’s thoughts, prayers and donations go to the families who are still in the middle of their own rollercoaster ride with raising children with congenital heart disease.
“We are also forever grateful for Koa’s amazing medical team who are probably out there right now saving another family.”
Mr Tarrant said HeartKids was solely supported by donations which helped them provide direct support to families like his.
“They are connecting so many people who can relate to one another as well by hosting public fundraisers all around the country each year to keep supporting families,” he said.
“We are forever grateful to the HeartKids’ family and our thoughts are with the other families continuing their fights with CHD on February 14.”
HeartKids CEO, Mark Brooke said CHD was a chronic condition that not only affects babies and children, but also more adults than ever before.
“It is our role at HeartKids to ensure parents and families are not left to struggle alone while they’re at their most vulnerable,” he said.
“Many babies undergo delicate heart surgery within days of being born and endure ongoing open-heart surgeries and treatments throughout their lives.
“While medical advancements are having a positive impact on survival rates, many sadly do not make it and these Heart Angels have a special place in the HeartKids’ community.”
Through public donations, HeartKids is hoping to raise $704,000 to expand its specialised family support services that are not government funded, yet are a lifeline for the thousands of families that turn to HeartKids each year for assistance.
Donate at www.sweetheartday.org.au.