Concern for an infant’s survival shouldn’t be the first emotion a new parent experiences, but when Heather Morovic’s daughter Kaitlyn was born with mosaic Down syndrome and two holes in her heart, fear for her newborn daughter’s life overrode everything else.
Kaitlyn spent the first six weeks of her life at BC Children’s Hospital. That experience left a lasting impression on Heather and her husband Nenad. Today, they can’t say enough about the caregivers at BC Children’s. From the surgeon who performed Kaitlyn’s intestinal surgery at 11:30 pm just so “it was done sooner rather than later,” to the nurses who made their hospital stays “magical,” the Morovic family is grateful to everyone who helped treat Kaitlyn during her stay.
Today, Kaitlyn - or “Miss Kait” to her mom and dad - continues to thrive, thanks to her relationships with her care team. She makes regular visits to her cardiologist, ophthamologist, orthoptist and respirologist at Children’s. In the end, though, the stuffie always wins: Heather admits Kait’s favourite Children’s resident is Sunny Bear.
Kaitlyn maintains contact with many specialists in the community, such as her speech therapist, pediatrician, audiologist, and family physician, among others. Kait wears orthotics to help her develop her knees, ankles and feet, and she’s working with a speech therapist and a supported child development worker.
Kaitlyn’s affection for all her caregivers came in handy when she was admitted to BC Children’s in 2012 and again in 2013, for treatment of a respiratory virus. Earlier this year, the family was delighted to hear from Dr. Shubhayan Sanatani, Kaitlyn’s cardiologist at Children’s, that the Atrial Septal Defect, (a hole in her heart) had become smaller.
“I was so excited to hear that she wouldn't have to have surgery,” says Heather. “When she was born, she had two holes in her heart. Thankfully, one of them closed on its own.”
Since children with Down Syndrome typically have a weak immune system, which grows stronger as they age, Kaitlyn’s parents are diligent about protecting her from colds and the flu.
She has another soldier in her corner: her big brother, Niko. Niko, 8, is as much a steadfast guardian as he is a big brother, Heather says. Of course, the two have a typical little-sister-big brother dynamic, “and it’s not all sunshine and roses,” Heather laughs. But it’s always heartwarming for Heather and her husband to see the unbreakable bond between the two. Niko often brings her to school, and makes sure he’s always holding her hand, guiding her; he’ll find her a chair and make sure she’s comfortable. At restaurants, if she’s getting irritated, he’ll distract her to calm her down.
As a protector of his little sister, Niko is also learning some hard lessons about the world. Heather says sometimes the family will be approached by strangers who express curiosity about Kaitlyn. Though many people may be well-meaning, not all are tactful; Niko blocks every move like a graceful defenceman, says Heather.
“Complete strangers will be staring, and when they come to approach us, he says, ‘Can I help you with something?’”
In the meantime, Kaitlyn is busy being a four-year-old with a mind of her own, offering her family some amusing moments. For instance, there’s the issue with her new glasses: she has astigmatism, she must wear glasses, and she’s clearly not impressed with the prospect.
“She will try to feed her glasses to the dog at her daycare. She will put them in the toilet. She will hide them in any crack or crevasse she can find,” Heather says. “I think the most recent pair was thrown out the window and onto Highway 99.”