• James Armstrong

Young Hudsonite jumps at chance to fundraise for Heart and Stroke Foundation


Hope Challice-Vezina, shown here with parents Dawn Challice and Fred Vezina, is doing her part to give back to the Heart and Stroke foundation that helped her in the past and will likely be involved with the care of her unborn brother.

At the age of only six, Hope Challice-Vezina took part in a fundraising event on Thursday, April 19 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada held at her school, Mount Pleasant Elementary in Hudson.

“She raised $300 by jumping rope,” proud mother Dawn Challice told The Journal. Her daughter’s participation in the event was particularly significant because, several weeks after Hope’s birth, it was discovered that she required life-saving heart surgery. Her parents were extremely grateful and impressed with the help and support provided to them throughout the ordeal by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “It’s an operation that kids need,” said Dawn, “and all the money raised goes to help the families.”

Diagnosis for second child

Currently, Dawn is pregnant with her second child.

“We know it’s a boy and he has Atrial Septic Defect (ASD), so we know we will need support from the foundation, again,” said Dawn. “It means he has a hole in his heart and will need surgery anywhere from 24 months, to four years of age,” she added. “Frequently, ASD is associated with Down syndrome but we had the test done and he doesn’t have it,” said Dawn. At the moment, Dawn is confined to complete bedrest until the baby arrives sometime in early July.

“It’s not easy to do that with a six-year-old running around,” said Dawn with a laugh adding she is thankful for the support of family members.

“He wants to come early, but he needs to be as strong as possible and he’s not ready, yet,” she said regarding the prescribed bedrest. Once the baby is born, he will be kept in the Intensive Care Unit for further observation and evaluation.

“We are currently going for ultrasounds on a regular basis but it’s not always a perfectly clear picture of what is happening,” she said noting that ongoing medical consultations are scheduled for the weeks ahead.

Family history

In the cases of both children, the heart defect problems came as a complete shock and surprise to Dawn and her partner Fred Vezina as neither family has a history of this type of heart defect. “We were told by a geneticist that the chances of this happening are one in one thousand, that it happens sporadically,” said Dawn.

Past experience

With the experience and positive outcome of their daughter’s birth and near-tragic start in life, Challice and Vezina know they will need the support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation in the coming weeks.

“The stress was incredible. I don’t think I slept for at least three months,” said Dawn recalling the events following Hope’s birth. “Originally, she was supposed to have surgery when she was born. However, when she arrived, everything seemed fine. At 13 days, she stopped breathing and turned blue. Luckily, we were at the CLSC when it happened, so they helped us,” said Dawn adding the episode was followed by a three-day hospital stay. At five weeks, Hope stopped feeding because of choking. An MRI was performed revealing that immediate surgery was required. The problem was an artery from the heart had formed around her esophagus restricting its growth. Although the surgery was needed immediately, it was postponed three times before it took place when Hope was seven weeks old.

“Without the surgery, she probably wouldn’t have survived,” said her mother. Today, Hope is a healthy six-year-old actively participating in her local community. “How is it that we could have two children with completely different heart problems?” asked Dawn noting it’s a question that remains unanswered.

Donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation can be made through their web site: www.heartandstroke.ca.

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