Family Prepares To Say Goodbye To Infant With Rare Heart Defect

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Catherine Corrine Shannon Lavallee is just two-weeks-old, but her family is already preparing to say goodbye to the newborn.

“It’s tough,” Lawrence Lavallee said from the hospital where his daughter is slowly dying. “It’s a very devastating feeling.”

Catherine was born on Aug. 4. and while she may look like any other healthy baby on the outside, inside, her heart is on the verge of failing.

Catherine has atrial isomerism, which is also known as heterotaxy syndrome, a rare and fatal heart defect that affects roughly one in 10,000 newborns.

What’s going through my heart is what really bugs me,” Lawrence said, with his wife and two other children at his side at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital. “I have to be here and be the anchor for my wife and also my two other children, so it’s pretty tough to even explain to even elaborate on what exactly is going on.”

Twenty-six weeks into his wife Charnelle’s pregnancy, doctors found the condition during a routine ultrasound. The family, who lives in Prince Albert, were then forced to travel an hour-and-a-half southwest to Saskatoon for proper medical assistance.

Doctors, however, told the family that surgery would not be an option for the little girl and that all they can do, they were told, is keep baby Catherine comfortable until she passes.

“It started from the doctors saying she wouldn’t even make it through birth,” Lawrence said, trying to be hopeful. “She was born and she proved that wrong. At three-days-old, they said that she would slowly start to shut down. Now she’s 14 days old today (Friday) and she’s proven all of their predictions wrong.”

Still, the family are devastated by the diagnosis. What’s even worse, they’ve felt this kind of pain before: in 2011, they tragically lost their 21-day-old son Liam to sudden infant death syndrome.

A crowdfunding campaign was launched to support the Lavallee family during this difficult time to help cover hospital expenses, hotel costs, and a funeral if Catherine doesn’t survive and so far, they’ve reached nearly half of their $10,000 goal.

We hope for the best,” Lawrence added. “I believe miracles do happen and I hope she is one of them.”


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