Every time I looked at her, I would think ‘How does she have this huge hole in her heart? She looks great,’” says Andie.

At three years old, Andie’s daughter Lennon “Leni” Keast was diagnosed with a heart murmur – a whooshing or extra sound heard when listening to the heart – during a routine checkup. After a referral to cardiologist Dr. Peppelassis at HSC Children’s Hospital, an echocardiogram revealed that Leni had atrial septal defect, a hole between the two atria (top chambers) of the heart and she would need to go out of province for surgery.

Andie praises Dr. Peppelassis for his empathy and thoughtfulness.

“I am so grateful for how hands-on Dr. P. was and how caring he seemed and how concerned he was and wanting to FaceTime or call us to give us any sort of updates on what it would be like. He wanted to talk to us; he never had anyone else call us,” says Andie, who also found support in other healthcare staff at the Children’s Heart Centre.

“We were very grateful for the empathy that they showed to us,” says Andie. “I know that they see children have heart surgeries every day or get diagnosed with a problem, but they just made sure to be so empathetic with us because that was our first time experiencing this. We’d just like to thank them for the care they’ve given Leni and to our family.”

During Leni’s surgery out of province, doctors inserted two mushroom-shaped balloons to block the hole in her heart through Leni’s groin, rather than the more invasive open-heart surgery. Three days post-surgery, Leni, Andie and husband, Branden were on the way home to Winnipeg.

“It was like night and day on the plane ride home. She had so much energy. She was running around, laughing and she had so much energy,” says Andie, who also has 12-year-old Hudson, 10-year-old Shea and 8-year-old Sloane.

Although no future surgeries are required, as Leni and her heart grow, she is followed by cardiology at the new Travis Price Heart Centre at the Children’s Hospital.

“There are all these strawberries painted on the wall, so she was touching those and they have a huge green tree in the room and lots of sensory things for her. She was literally excited,” says Andie of Leni’s first visit to the new centre. “All the windows and the daylight. It was not a scary place. It was not a dreary place. It was cheerful! So that is a huge difference to be able to take your child to that.”


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