The board of Directors for the Little Hearts Family Group inc. is made up of parents just like you! Allow us to introduce ourselves:
(Updated after the 2019 AGM, held on August 20, 2019)
Sarah Ward (Chair)
Sarah is a wife and a mom to one very energetic little girl. Her daughter was born in the fall of 2016 and after only a few hours of life, it was discovered that she had been born with a Congenital Heart Defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries. She was quickly airlifted to Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital where she underwent a very complicated course involving 6 open heart surgeries, 2 general surgeries, multiple mechanical hearts, a couple runs on ECMO, multiple cardiac arrests and more than 25 surgical procedures. All of these complications resulted in the need for a Heart Transplant which she received, thanks to a donor, at 4 months old. Her daughter is now 3 years old and is thriving – she participates in swimming, gymnastics and is learning and growing every day.
Sarah looks forward to continuing her service to the LHFG in her new role as Chair and hopes to continue to offer support to the heart families of Saskatchewan in any way she can.
Ashley Balysky (Vice-Chair)
Ashley is mom to a very energetic little boy named Nash, thanks to a heart donor.
Nash was born with a heart defect called Shones complex. Flying to Edmonton when he was 3 days old, he underwent his first Open Heart Surgery at 15 days old. We spent 6 more weeks in Edmonton before he was able to come home for a whole 5 months.
While at home he developed a terrifying and life threatening disease called Pulmonary Hypertension. Nash was flown back to Edmonton where he underwent more open heart surgeries to fix his heart. It was evident that he needed a heart transplant and he was placed on a mechanical heart while he waited. At 13 months old, he received a new heart and after 9 months in Edmonton (7 in the ICU), we were allowed to go home.
Your worries are never over and it seems like we are forever adding doctors or changing medications, but we have a happy and stubborn little boy and I wouldn’t change a thing about our path.
Jamie Weber (Secretary)
Jamie has worked in the Information Technology sector for over 20 years. She currently works as a Senior Account Executive – Business Development and Marketing for ISM Canada in Regina. She has two beautiful boys, Caine and Brody. Brody was born on April 7, 2011, with a complex congenital heart defect (DORV, VSD and Pulmonary Stenosis). He has endured two surgeries; the Glenn and the Fontan which were performed by Dr. Ghandi at the BC Children’s Hospital. It has been a trying yet informative journey that will continue onward with yearly check-ups, heart catheterization and general “motherly” worrying. Jamie is excited and honored to be on the Board of Directors to provide additional support in the Regina and surrounding area. She also looks forward to working more closely with the Pediatric Cardiology team in raising awareness of CHD across Saskatchewan.
Kailey Bernard (Treasurer) Kailey is a full-time working wife and mom of three, and is currently working at a credit union in Saskatoon.
When Kailey’s second child was born they were sure that he was a healthy little boy and they brought him home the next day. That all changed when he was just over 48 hours old and he went into cardiogenic shock at home. Luckily they made it to the ER at RUH in Saskatoon in time in the middle of the night, not yet realizing the extent of what was wrong with their son. He was diagnosed at three days old with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and was flown to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton. After enduring three open heart surgeries in three years, tube feeding for nearly a year, and countless needles at home, they are finally living a normal life. Kailey is excited to start being able to give back and help other families through their journeys.
Rachael Strozen (Director)
Rachael is a Medical Laboratory Technologist (MLT) and is an instructor for the MLT program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. She is married and has two little girls; Olivia and Gemma. Gemma was diagnosed with Double Inlet Left Ventricle and Corrected Transposition of the Great Arteries in utero. She has had four open heart surgeries and is presently a very healthy and active child.
The family’s life changed drastically when Gemma was born in order to keep her healthy. Now that Gemma is finished with her surgeries and is doing well they have been able to resume their regular work schedules and redirect some of their energy into other causes. Rachael wants to help others who have been through similar experiences. Becoming a board member for the Little Hearts Family Group is a way to accomplish this goal. She hopes to be able to share her experience with new and not so new heart families and to gain a network of people who understand what being a heart parent really means. Rachael and Gemma are currently ambassadors for the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.
Carma Cechanowicz (Director) Carma is one of the many heart parents that live in southern Saskatchewan, she is a wife and mother of 2. Carma has a diploma in Early Childhood Education, a certificate in Childbirth Education and is certifying as a Postpartum Doula. Her Son was born with an undiagnosed VSD in 2017. Being introduced to the hearts family felt like being part of an elite club. This group made Carma want to give back and help other families who are going through the similar situations.
Sheryl Burke (Director)
Crystal Maslin (Director)
Crystal is a married mom of two, and she works full-time at the University of Saskatchewan. In 2015, her son was born with a complex congenital heart defect commonly referred to as half-a-heart. By the time he was six months old, he had undergone five surgeries and had spent 100 nights in the hospital. This journey hasn’t been easy but thanks to the support of our friends and family, our dedicated medical team and other heart families we have not only survived the unthinkable we have remained hopeful and resilient. We have watched our son thrive, and we have developed a new appreciation for life and what is possible. She became a board member to help raise awareness of pediatric heart conditions, to give back to the pediatric cardiology team that has taken such good care of her family, to support families as they learn to navigate the health system and to work to improve the long-term outcomes for children with acquired or congenital heart conditions.