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Life-threatening congenital heart defects affect one in 100 babies
LONDON, ONT. -- Owen Gillet was diagnosed with a life-threatening congenital heart defect weeks before he was born, and he hopes his story of survival will help others.
“It is a fatal diagnosis we were given,” says Owen's mom, Heather Gillet. “He has hypoplastic left heart syndrome and most babies will usually live an hour or perhaps a week.”
Owen underwent his first open-heart surgery when he was only seven days old. He had three open heart surgeries in total during his younger years that saved his life.
“We feel very fortunate, very fortunate,” says his mom.
Now as an active Grade 11 student and athlete, Owen doesn’t let his condition stop him from doing the things he loves, he just knows he has to be cautious.
“It takes some getting used to with some sports that obviously I like to play,” says Owen. “Some of the biggest challenges [are] monitoring how you feel and making sure you don’t push it past your limit.”
Inspirational stories like Owen's is what National Congential Heart Defect Awareness Week is all about.
“Each child is as unique as their heart defect, so it becomes very difficult for parents because they are in the moment,” says Lisa Wright, chair of Hearts of London/Middlesex.
“It’s very important that when we bring awareness to heart defects that they are able to see children like Owen, living into [their] teens and now moving into adulthood living healthy happy lives.”
Owen agreed and hopes his story will bring comfort and inspiration to other kids living with a heart defect.
“Don’t think about how your disability or physical disadvantage will set you apart from other people. I would say that you just be able to do everything like everyone else can.”