You can’t question the amount of enthusiasm, energy and heart that Mikayla Edmunds pours into everything she does.
That’s truly remarkable, considering the 11-year-old Colwood resident exudes that joie de vivre, despite enduring four open-heart surgeries, the first just a week after she was born.
Mikayla was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLSL) before she was born, a condition that affects normal blood flow through the heart, her mother, Jocelyn Edmunds explained. The syndrome is a congenital heart defect that results in the left side of the heart not forming correctly while the baby develops during pregnancy.
“I found out there was a potential problem when I was 12 weeks pregnant,” Edmunds recalled. “The actual diagnosis came at 20 weeks.” It’s definitely shocking and traumatic to find out that a child that hasn’t even come into the world yet is going to have massive challenges throughout her life.”
One of the three options available was a heart transplant, although about half of children who go through that don’t survive, because of delays finding a donor or failure with the transplant surgery, Edmunds said.
“There was compassionate care, which is more end of life care, because I’m not aware of any child surviving without surgery,” she said.
“My husband Mitch and I both felt that if she was going to fight to be here, we were going to fight tooth and nail to provide whatever she needs.”
The couple decided on the third option, which involved a series of three surgical procedures, beginning with open heart surgery when Mikayla was one week old.
That led to an additional unexpected surgery due to an issue with how scar tissue built up, followed by a second scheduled surgery at 18 months and the third a month before her fifth birthday.
“The succession of three scheduled surgeries was to reroute the blood flow in her body. Mikayla basically only has half a functioning heart so they reroute the blood flow through her lungs and she was too young to have it all done at once,” Edmunds explained. “We were very fortunate to have Dr. Andrew Campbell, a very talented cardiac surgeon at B.C. Children’s Hospital perform the final surgery. At this point, the long-term prognosis is stable. That reinforces that we made the right decision and we couldn’t ask for more.”
Mikayla is also dealing with scoliosis and kyphosis, which affect the curvature of the spine.
“Mitch and I look at her as a miracle,” Edmunds added. “She reminds us every day that whatever we’re dealing with, we can get through it.”
Mikayla shared an interesting perspective when asked about the difficulties her heart problems have posed for her.
“My health challenges were really hard on my parents,” she said. “Sometimes life throws you lemons, so you make lemon meringue pie. Surviving four open-heart surgeries is a gift I’m definitely happy to share with my mom and dad. “
Mikayla is currently focused on returning to Colwood’s Ecole John Stubbs for Grade 6, where she will continue in the French immersion program.
“I enjoy learning a second language and I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends again,” she said. “I’m also learning a little Spanish from my nanny. I like art class a lot, too.”
Playing touch football is a favourite pastime, she added. “Football’s my favourite sport. I really like passing the ball around with my dad and playing catch (baseball) with my papa. I like the Blue Jays, but my favourite sports team by far is the Montreal Canadiens. I watch a lot of hockey with my dad, and really liked watching Montreal make it to the finals.”
Mikayla has already set her sights on becoming a veterinarian.
“I’ve always had a love for animals and love to care for them,” she said, as evidenced by the way she dotes on her two Chihuahuas, Spud and Pebbles. “That’s my passion when I grow up.”
Mikayla joined the Goldstream Gazette team as a newspaper carrier in February and said she “likes it a lot.”
“It’s good exercise, you meet nice people and sometimes I get to do it with my cousin, Nevaeh and my grandparents. It’s always great spending time with them.”
When asked what she will do with the money she’s earning, Mikayla was quick to point out there’s a plan in place.
“We’ve been saving for a long time to go to Disney in Paris, France. It’s going to take a long time to save enough, but it’s something I’ve always dreamed of.”
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