Mirella in the hospital (top) and with a large cutout of a beaver (bottom)By Mirella Cervo

My name is Mirella Cervo, and I was born on September 14, 2011, in Abbotsford, BC, at Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

When I was born, my mother was advised by the pediatrician who helped deliver me that there was a subtle noise on my heart known as a heart murmur. The doctors monitored my heart regularly over the next few years.

When I was two years old, my condition was reassessed by the team at BC Children’s Hospital, and they recommended that I get an echocardiogram when I was four years old.

On January 2017, I was diagnosed with an atrial septal defect with partial anomalous pulmonary venous return. Open-heart surgery was recommended by the hospital team to correct both defects.

Dr. Duncan and the pre-admission clinic arranged for my surgery on May 11, 2017, at 8:00 am. My surgeon was Dr. Gandhi. My mom and dad brought me to pre-op and said, “See you soon!” My surgery was successful and took only one and a half hours. Dr. Gandhi mentioned that he corrected the issue with my veins and closed the hole in my heart, putting a patch of my own skin over the hole. The murmur was gone. (Yay!)

Dr. Gandhi and the cardiac team took diligent care of me, checking every hour to see how I was doing. I was sleeping most of the time. I stayed overnight in my own private room (my dad slept in my room on the couch). In the morning, Dr. Gandhi told me and my dad that after a few tests (easy peasy ones) I could go home in the afternoon…and I did! It was nice to go home so soon. My mom and grandma came to visit me in the morning, and my dad told them the good news. The hospital was kind and gave me a quilt to take home with me and said it would keep me warm while I was recuperating. I guess it did, as I got better very quickly! 😊

I was sent home with a detailed package of instructions showing how to take care of the wound and to help with my recuperation. Happily, within eight weeks of my surgery, I was back at my daycare and enjoying summer camps with my friends.

I was told to avoid contact sports and any other activities that put a lot of stress on my heart, so I took it easy. Ever since then, I’ve been able to do and play whatever I want, like T-ball, soccer, competitive swimming, and softball!

I had to return a few times each year for follow-ups and tests, but that was no big deal. Now I’m almost 11, and I only have to go back once every two years for a checkup.

The Children’s Heart Network was a big support for my family when I was diagnosed with my condition. CHN connected my parents with other families who had been through a similar journey as us. I have also been able to meet other heart warriors like me by attending the events organized by CHN, like the Cultus Lake Waterpark, Pumpkin Patch, and Christmas Breakfast with Santa.

I want to thank BC Children’s Hospital, CHN, all the members of the cardiac department, and the volunteers that helped me and my parents get through the operation and all of the follow-up appointments. ♥

“Mirella’s Heart Journey” is from our fall 2022 newsletter, Heart Matters. See our Newsletters page for more stories and to subscribe.