In the heart of our city lies a very special place on the 8th floor of Boston Children’s Hospital, where the world’s finest surgeons, doctors and nurses strive to mend the hearts of some of the littlest patients.
In this place where tiny hearts fight to beat, confident that they are in the best hands of medical professionals, parent’s ring side seats can leave them feeling helpless and in despair.
Three local moms experienced these feelings as they were thrown into the world of Congenital Heart Defects. As they discussed their stories with each other, they learned that they are not alone on this journey. They each knew what it was like to pace the corridors of the 8th floor Heart Center where the sterile walls echoed the sound of tiny hearts, at times to a pounding beat and at others a slow peaceful rhythm. They had all been to this place where time is no longer measured in minutes and hours, but in the beeps and bells of a cardiac monitor. Connecting on a very emotional level as they described the heart wrenching task of handing their babies over to a surgical team, knowing that once their newborns left their arms, open heart surgery was to be performed to save their babies lives. While talking together, these mothers realized that the gifted Dr. Sitram Emani, cardiac surgeon, was the man who linked them all. He saved the lives of Dean Clifford at 3 days of life, Ari Kassner at 13 days of life, and Bridget Mulligan at 3 days of life. Although all have different paths that led to their hearts being mended, all three children are strong brave warriors that have families standing behind them to support them. But these parents realized that they needed to find others who have been through similar experiences to help them stay strong.
As they shared the emotional challenges, the heart aches and the fears they experienced at different steps of their journey, they began to find comfort in knowing that others could truly relate. In hope that no heart family travelled this road alone again, the three mothers of these children came together to create something bigger. Laura Dillon, Heidi Kassner and later Katelyne Mulligan founded Mended Little Hearts of Boston (MLH) to help fill these voids and create the local support network that was missing.
MLH’s mission is to provide hope and support to children, families and caregivers impacted by Congenital Heart Defects in order to extend and improve quality of life. Congenital Heart Defects are the most common birth defect in the United States, affecting about 1 in every 110 infants each year.
MLH helps families through peer-to-peer support group meetings, educational programs, connecting families with resources, accredited visiting programs, care bags for families in the hospital, ongoing communication, awareness activities and advocating on issues that affect children with heart defects.
Today, we share this story to give Hope. Hope to make a difference in families of children with Congenital Heart Defects. Hope to make awareness of Congenital Heart Defects in our community. Most of all, we hope that you know that Mended Little Hearts of Boston is here to help. We would love to hear your story, if you would like to share with us on this page, please send an email to BostonMA@mendedlittlehearts.org.