A birthday is often a time for families to celebrate together, but Sabrina and Mark Smith spent their daughter’s first birthday waiting in the hospital.

Their daughter, Siena, was undergoing heart surgery.

“Seeing Siena with all the tubes, it was just out of our control whether she gets well or not,” Sabrina says.

Siena was born with Ventricular Septal Disorder, a congenital heart condition affecting approximately one in every 240 babies. Siena was born with a hole between the lower chambers of her heart. Without a fix, blood can flow between the left and right ventricles and into the lungs, causing the both organs to overwork themselves and risk further complications.

Sabrina and Mark had noticed Siena was having issues after she was born. When she was six weeks old, she had a cold that lasted almost six weeks. She had an aggressive cough, and they noticed she hadn’t been growing at a regular rate. At ten-months, they took Siena to a pediatrician, who referred her to the HSC Children’s Hospital Heart Centre and Dr. Soni, a pediatric cardiologist.

Dr. Soni informed Sabrina and Mark that Siena would likely need heart surgery. Something no parent wants for their child.

“I was scared but felt better with the assurance of the doctors,” Sabrina says.

For many of us, birthdays are filled with picture-taking and parties. On Siena’s first birthday, Sabrina was apprehensive about taking photos, but nurses encouraged her to take pictures to look back on.

“Now, I am so thankful we did it.”

Today, the Smith family can look back on the images and see how far they’ve come. Siena underwent open-heart surgery in a different province to correct the congenital disorder and continued follow-up care in Winnipeg at Children’s Hospital. She has since been able to celebrate her past ten birthdays with her family. She is a happy and healthy eleven-year-old and has had no further heart conditions.

“We are super thankful for the support we received in Winnipeg.”

One thing that has lasted since Siena’s surgery is Luna, the bear given to her for her trip out of province. The pair have been together ever since and have started a campaign, i heart bear hugs, to provide every child who must undergo heart surgery a teddy bear. Dr. Soni even visited Siena’s school to help her talk about Children’s heart health and the teddy bear campaign.

With money she has raised, Siena is buying Dr. Goodbear stuffies to donate for kids receiving care at the new Travis Price Children’s Heart Centre at Children’s Hospital. “I hope they feel loved, not alone, and that someone knows what they are going through,” says Siena.

To contribute to Siena’s fundraiser to donate Dr. Goodbear stuffies to kids who need heart surgeries, click here.

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