Twelve-year-old Addison McArthur was only three weeks old when she became the first baby to receive a heart transplant at BC Children’s Hospital. Coincidentally, this year will be the 12th annual Triple Crown for Heart cycling event – an initiative that Addison and her family are helping raise awareness.
After a heart defect went initially undiagnosed after Addison was born, she was placed in the intensive care unit. Doctors said that her heart was “literally about to stop,” according to her mother, Elaine Yong, who is the manager of communications and community engagement at the BC Transplant Society.
Doctors conducted many tests and scans over the 24 hours and soon realized that this was not something they could easily fix. They concluded that a heart transplant was the only option for survival, and Addison was placed on the transplant list.
Amazingly, a heart became available within 72 hours, something that almost never happens, according to Emily Tai, a cardiology nurse at BC Children’s.
“Miraculously, within 72 hours — which does not happen — it’s just very rare for a child heart, an infant heart to be available in such a short time frame,” she said. “She was one lucky girl and her story is pretty remarkable.”
On May 8, 2011, the heart transplant was conducted and Addison’s life was saved.
“Audrey is the name of Addison’s heart donor, and she provided the ultimate gift for Addison to have a second chance at life,” Yong said. “Without the great support and care at BC Children’s Hospital, that gift wouldn’t have been utilized.”
Yong is forever grateful to BC Children’s and considers them to be a part of her extended family.
“They wouldn’t just take care of Addison but they were taking care of all of us and the rest of our family and friends,” she said. “They made sure we got rest and took care of ourselves as well.”
Addison has been going to BC Children’s regularly to be monitored, as the transplant isn’t a cure, and takes medication twice a day to prevent rejection. However, she is still active, happy and healthy today, having just competed in the World Transplant Games held in Perth, Australia in April and continues to support BC Children’s and the Triple Crown for Heart with her family.
The Triple Crown event was founded in 2010 by cardiac nurse Marie Campbell, and has raised over $240,000 since then. This year’s goal is over $35,000. Funds will go towards causes that make sure children can have constant support while they experience inpatient cardiac care during their stay at BC Children’s, as well as the opportunity to experience the outdoors and new social experiences with friends at the children’s and teen’s heart summer camp at Camp Zajac.
When Yong and her husband, Aaron McArthur, found out about the Triple Crown event, they were both really excited because he loves cycling and it supports a cause that is important to them.
McArthur is part of the “middle-aged men in spandex,” a term his wife used to describe him when he first started cycling a decade ago. Addison even added that his outfit “doesn’t look very good,” but McArthur is happy to risk fashion for a good cause, especially one that hits close to home.
The event also means a lot to Tai, as it raises money for the children’s heart unit which is where she works. Formulas, for example, are not covered by the government and can be super expensive. Families would get assistance from social workers, but even funding for the assistance was hard to come by. With the help of the event and fundraiser, families now have one less thing to worry about.
“This event directly impacts the kids I take care of and their families,” Tai said. “I don’t even have to worry about telling families about the formulas, as the event raises money to support these families.”
Tai was a novice road biker but has slowly worked her way up and will be participating once again in the Triple Crown. She encourages others to donate and participate as well, and not to be intimidated by the three North Vancouver mountains, as it is a “really fun event not just for people who are hardcore cyclists.”
The Triple Crown consists of riding to the top of all three mountains, Seymour, Grouse and Cypress, and will start at 8 a.m. on Saturday at Ron Andrews Community Centre.
Although Tai doesn’t know Addison directly, she is aware of her story and her continuing efforts to raise awareness.
“I know she helps her mom with the BC Transplant Society,” she said. “She’s a huge advocate for transplant donations and very involved with being part of that awareness.”
The Triple Crown will take place on Saturday, July 15 in North Vancouver.
For more information, visit triplecrownforheart.ca/the-cause and donate at donations.triplecrownforheart.ca/team_fundraising/