Coffee with: Ladner family has 'happy hearts'
When she's not in class at Neilson Grove Elementary, 11-year-old Brynn McKenna likes dancing, musical theatre, jumping on the trampoline and playing with her dog.
For the most part, she has a perfectly normal childhood. But not quite.
Twice a day, Brynn has to take medication, which weakens her immune system. She gets regular blood work done and sees a heart doctor every six months for tests. And she has a permanent scar on her chest from receiving a heart transplant as a baby.
It's now been more than a decade years since Brynn underwent that lifesaving operation, but the memory is still fresh for her family. Her mother, Carmen Carriere, recalls the day her daughter was born she needed surgery to implant a pacemaker.
"She was born with something called Long QT Syndrome, and that is generally associated with sudden death," Carmen says. "Most children don't present with it until they're adolescents, so it was very rare for a newborn to have that."
At four-and-a-half months old, Brynn was further diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy—a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged. She needed a heart transplant, so the family flew to Toronto since the procedure was not done in B.C. at the time.
"We were very blessed in the scheme of things. We waited four weeks," says Carmen. "But it was a nail-biting time because, of course, she was in heart failure, so she was on a bunch of medications."
Today, happy and healthy Brynn is a symbol of hope for families with children going through medical challenges.
"Seeing Brynn 10 years out, it's just so encouraging to the parents," says Carmen. "I think it's important for the public to see children like Brynn that are leading normal lives, going to school, doing normal activities, despite the fact that they have to take medication and do hospital appointments quite frequently."
Brynn is an ambassador for the Children's Organ Transplant Society (COTS), a charity that supports kids requiring organ transplants. COTS has partnered with the Starlight Children’s Foundation—which brightens the lives of seriously ill children—to host the Children’s Charity Classic Golf Tournament May 24 at Quilchena Golf & Country Club in Richmond.
Brynn has benefitted from the help and support of both organizations and is excited to participate in the fundraising tournament with her father.
Carmen encourages all people to register to become organ donors.
"I'm so thrilled that people do donate organs, because I have my beautiful daughter," she says.