LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Congenital heart defects, or CHDis the most common birth defect affecting children across the country, including right here in Las Vegas.
It is not only the children who suffer, but also their parents. New moms and dads who have babies diagnosed with coronary heart disease often spend weeks or even months at Sunrise Children’s Hospital worrying about their child’s health.
It’s there that they meet Heart Families of Nevada, a new nonprofit in Las Vegas that offers hope to people who understand their struggle.
Heart Families of Nevada president Alicia Wood has a three-year-old son named Oliver who has CHD.
“He has two aortas instead of one like the rest of us, and they were wrapped around his trachea and esophagus,” Wood added.
The vice-president of the association, Alexis Marshall, has a two-year-old daughter named Céline who has CHD.
“I literally saw my daughter’s heart beating from an open chest,” Marshall said.
Early in baby Oliver’s heart journey, Wood received a gift basket from a mother who had been through the same thing. She says there were items inside that she didn’t even know she needed.
She decided to pay it forward, reaching out to other local families with a diagnosis of coronary heart disease, one of them being Marshall.
“It gave me so much hope. From that moment my family saw a change in me. I wasn’t so sad, I had hope again,” Marshall added.
Now, the couple have teamed up to create the Heart Families of Nevada nonprofit. They are partnering with Sunrise Children’s Hospital to distribute gift baskets to all families with a new diagnosis of coronary heart disease.
The gift baskets contain items for baby, but also for mom and dad when the day seems unbearable.
“Pay attention to small miracles. I remember when Alicia told me that, and it got me so far. I’ve seen so many miracles with my daughter and it’s gotten us through some really tough times,” Marshall said.
Beyond the material items, Wood and Marshall offer a community of families who have been there and want to help. They show frightened new families that there is hope and happiness beyond the hospital walls.
“The connection is so important to us because we know how powerful it was when we made that connection with another kindhearted family,” Wood said.
Heart Families of Nevada is in its infancy, established in 2021. They would like to continue to expand, eventually providing housing and therapy for Heart Families.
You can find more information and donate to the cause at Nevada Heart Families website.
You can also buy a candle with proceeds going to Heart Families of Nevada.