Pickering girl named a ‘Champion’ for conquering her heart defect

Olivia Chan (right) uses her play stethoscope to "listen" to the heartbeat of her father, Justin Chan (left). Jasmine Pazzano

When Adrian Liu went for a routine ultrasound scan during her first pregnancy, she received news that would change her and her family’s lives: there was something wrong with her baby’s heart.

“The left side of her heart wasn’t functioning at all,” said Liu. “It’s very overwhelming… when you’re about to become a parent, you think everything’s going to be normal.”

Doctors diagnosed Olivia Chan, Liu’s daughter, with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, defined by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a severe congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is underdeveloped.

When she was one week old, Chan endured open-heart surgery — the first of three she received at SickKids hospital in Toronto throughout her lifetime. “Because the surgeries are done when she’s a baby, there could be developmental problems. She could develop slower than the average child.”

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Although her heart will always be a little bit different, Chan is now in stable condition. “She does pretty much all of the same activities that her peers do,” said Liu of her daughter, who loves to ride her bike and read.

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“SickKids helped me with my heart,” Chan said.

To celebrate Chan conquering her condition, SickKids awarded her with the title of their 2018 Children’s Miracle Network “Champion.” Every year, the CMN’s member hospitals select one patient to demonstrate the journey families and their children take to overcome illnesses or injuries as well as to show the advances made in Canadian health care.

“[Chan] is [a] very outgoing little six-year-old,” said Heather Mills from the SickKids Foundation. “[She] is a child just like any other child, and any child can end up here at SickKids and it’s not something that we want, but it’s a reality.”

“It makes me feel proud and happy that I’m chosen to be the champion,” said Chan.

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Chan is one of 12 “Champions” picked by hospitals across the country who had the chance to visit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa last month. They also had the opportunity to travel to Florida to visit Disney World and to meet “Champions” from the U.S.

In hopes of helping other sick children, Chan hopes to someday become a doctor. She says she loves to play with her doctor’s kit, and she uses her play stethoscope to “listen” to her family’s heartbeats.

“We really feel like we have a success story,” said Liu. “[She] has turned out to have a happy, healthy life.”

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