This holiday season, make a gift supporting Niagara Health so patients like Nash continue to receive the best care.

November 19, 2018

This time of year, I can’t help but think about how Niagara Health was there for my family during the holidays. You see, my son Nash was born at Niagara Health’s St. Catharines Site almost exactly two years ago. The ever-busy Christmas season was on its way, and we were thrilled that our new baby boy had arrived safely into the world. But, on December 9th at only 13 days old, Nash was back at Niagara Health giving our family the scare of our lives.
After a series of tests and a one week stay in the Special Care Nursery, his care team figured out what was wrong: he had a heart defect called Partial Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD). Only about one in a 100 babies is born with a heart defect, four percent of which have AVSD - meaning Nash is part of a very rare club.
As we get ready to celebrate Nash’s second birthday, I know that if it wasn’t for the care that he received from the doctors and nurses at Niagara Health, he might not be here with us today. That’s hard for me to say, as it would be for any parent, but I thought that sharing my story might show you how much of an impact your donations have for families like mine.
This holiday, I hope you will consider making a special gift in support of Niagara Health Foundation’s Celebration of Lights campaign. Your donation will help provide the hospital’s teams with the right tools so that they can be there for our loved ones.
When you make a gift of $50, $100, $175, or even $250, you’re helping to ensure that Niagara Health is equipped now and well into the future. I know first-hand that you never know when you or your family might need to rely on the hospital for care.
Let me tell you more about our experience.
When Nash was born he was much smaller than we anticipated at six pounds and one ounce – I had gestational diabetes during my pregnancy so larger babies are more common. Routine testing showed that his blood oxygen saturation levels were low and he had bluish-purple hands and feet, usually a result of poor blood circulation which is common in infants.
Nash was tested again and appeared to be healthy so we were discharged.
The first few days at home were the usual with a newborn – lots of cuddles, countless diaper changes and lack of sleep for my husband, Mike, and I. My Mom offered to stay with us for a while to help with our new bundle of joy.
One night she woke me up, worried about Nash’s breathing. It was rapid and very inconsistent. I jumped out of bed and rushed him to the Emergency Department in St. Catharines. Nash was back in the hospital at less than two weeks old.
I was in a daze but I clearly remember the alarming reaction of the triage nurse as she frantically scooped Nash out of his car seat. This is when I realized that something might be seriously wrong with my baby.
Amanda, a Nurse Practitioner from Niagara Health’s Special Care Nursery, came down to the Emergency Department to look at Nash. He was immediately admitted to the nursery and placed into an overbed warmer. We couldn’t feed or hold him for 36 hours as he rested.
At first Nash’s care team thought that he might have meningitis, but after a week on antibiotics and many tests including a brain and echocardiogram ultrasound, he still wasn’t getting better.
On the day we were set to leave the hospital, Amanda checked my son one last time and thought that she heard a murmur in his heart. Amanda was committed to figuring out what was wrong – she was our shining star and Nash’s guardian angel.
Nash was sent to Hamilton in a Stryker Incubator Transport Stretcher by ambulance for further testing on his heart, where he stayed for only a day and was back in St. Catharines with a diagnosis: Partial Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD). He had a hole in between the top two chambers of his heart and a problem with his valves, so his little heart was working much harder than it should.
This is when it all started to make sense. Nash’s low birth weight and blood oxygen saturations levels, bluish-purple hands and feet and his rapid breathing were all symptoms of his heart defect.
Did you know that hospital equipment like the overbed warmer, ultrasound and Stryker Incubator Transport Stretcher is made possible by donors like you?
Your generosity played a role in my son’s care and I am so thankful to you.
It was now December 17th and we were certain we would be spending Nash’s first Christmas at the hospital. Our son Aidan, who was six years old, mostly stayed with family and friends during this time and didn’t get to visit his little brother for the first eight days of his stay. It was a very confusing time for him.
Aside from having a great support system at home, the little things at the hospital also made our situation more bearable. The playroom and video game station in the Children’s Health Unit provided a distraction for Aidan while visiting Nash. Appearances from Santa and Mrs. Claus, bright and cheery paintings on the windows and a festively decorated tree in the unit gave our family moments of joy while we spent the holiday season at the hospital. One nurse even brought in holiday socks for Nash, which we still have today in his keepsake box. Although that holiday was difficult for my family, we will never forget these touches.
As I look back, I realize that the story of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ became the theme of our hospital stay. The ornament that we bought from the gift shop to hang on Nash’s crib, the book my brother brought when he visited and the song playing from the piano in the lobby as we left the hospital to go home, were all from the classic holiday story.
Just like the Grinch, our hearts swelled with the kindness we were all shown and I’m convinced that this theme kept popping up to remind us that things would work out okay. Nash’s heart would be mended just like the Grinch’s heart.
We left the hospital on December 21st that year, just in time for Aidan’s school concert and Christmas Day.
It’s been an uphill battle for Nash – he spent 20 days at Niagara Health in his first year – but we always take everything in stride. And, I’m 100 percent confident that if it wasn’t for the expert staff at Niagara Health’s Emergency Department and Special Care Nursery my son wouldn’t be here today.
We know that Nash will need heart surgery before his fourth birthday and he has many ongoing challenges because of his heart condition. Things like being smaller in size, occasional heavy breathing, low body temperature and needing to consume a high calorie diet are part of his reality.
What our experience has taught us is to never take anything for granted and to live life to the fullest. We bought a trailer to enjoy with family and we are looking forward to going to Disney next fall.
And, it was encouraging to find out from Amanda that a few important measures have been introduced since Nash was born. Starting in 2017, all newborn babies go through Critical Congenital Heart Disease Screening and a team of paediatric cardiologists from Hamilton run a clinic once a week at Niagara Health for children in our community. I’m hopeful that these changes will help families like ours going through a similar experience.
Thank you for your kind support of Niagara Health Foundation and for making a gift to its Celebration of Lights campaign this holiday season. By funding urgently needed equipment, you will help ensure that our loved ones receive the best possible care when they need it the most.
Please make your donation today.
From our family to yours, best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and happy, healthy New Year.
Cass and the Donovan Family (Mike, Aidan & Nash)
P.S.  I do hope you’ll make a gift to Niagara Health Foundation this holiday season, so that more families like mine continue to receive the same excellent patient care and medical support well into the future.

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