Layla Thomson

Layla Thomson was born into this world a healthy, happy baby girl. At least that’s what her parents, Tammy and Brad, thought.

For the first two months of Layla’s life everything appeared to be normal, though she wasn’t gaining weight as she should have. Tammy and Brad consulted with Layla’s pediatrician, and discovered Layla had a heart murmur.

At first Layla’s cardiologist thought the problem stemmed from a pinched valve, a condition that could be fixed by pushing a balloon-like object through her thigh and opening the valve near her heart. But a routine check-up showed her condition was much more serious: there was a hole in Layla’s heart, and she needed open-heart surgery within two weeks.

The news was hard to bear for Layla’s parents.

“This was extremely scary to think that our daughter's chest would be cut open and her heart would be stopped for an extended period of time,” Tammy says.

Layla was just six months old when she was diagnosed with ventricular septal defect (VSD), a common congenital heart defect. The hole in her heart was located in the wall that separates the lower chambers that allow blood to pass from the left side to the right. Many small VSDs close on their own, but in Layla’s case the opening was large enough to push oxygen-rich blood back into her lungs rather than to the rest of her body. This forced her young heart to work on overdrive.

Layla was soon transferred into the care of Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi, a renowned heart surgeon at BC Children’s Hospital. Dr. Gandhi stopped Layla’s heart for 27 minutes, repairing the hole with a waterproof fabric membrane. Following the procedure, Layla’s heart developed an irregular beat, so she was hooked up to a pacemaker to adjust it.

Tammy remembers how terrified she was the first time she saw Layla in the Intensive Care Unit after the surgery.

“She had so many IVs, tubes, wires, machines and a pacemaker hooked up to her,” recalls Tammy. “It was a sad sight, but we were relieved to learn she was a trooper.”

Today, at 18 months old, Layla is once again a happy, healthy little girl. She is as active as any other child her age; she loves dancing, gymnastics and spending time outdoors with her family. She no longer needs to visit BC Children’s Hospital for check-ups, but will continue to see a cardiologist once a year.

Tammy and Brad are so grateful to the doctors and staff at BC Children’s Hospital that they’ve made several donations in Layla’s name. They say they plan to visit the hospital on a regular basis and when Layla gets a little older, they want her to decide for herself how she would like to give back.

“We are so thankful for Dr. Gandhi and his medical team for their amazing work,” says Tammy. “The staff in the ICU were absolutely amazing and knew how to keep her as comfortable as possible.”