A legacy of giving, close to the heart

It was over 40 years ago when Barb Harris first walked through the doors of BC Children’s Hospital. In 1974, her daughter, Gayle, was born with a tiny hole in her heart and was referred to a BC Children’s Hospital pediatric
cardiologist, Dr. Michael Patterson, now retired. Gayle became a regular patient of the hospital until she transitioned to adult care at age 19.

Gayle was Barb’s only child, adopted by Barb and her husband Gregg, at birth. She grew to become a beloved librarian for the City of Surrey. Kind, warm and passionate about literacy, Gayle was one of the longest-serving children’s librarians in the city. She dedicated her life’s work to helping her community and building connections through books and learning.

On the morning of April 8, 2019, after walking her five-year-old son to school, Gayle suffered an unexpected cardiac arrest. She spent five weeks in a coma before passing away on May 12 at the age of 44. Doctors explained her cardiac arrest was likely caused by long QT syndrome (LQTS), a heart rhythm condition. While LQTS can be present at
birth, it may not be found until later in life.

After losing her daughter to a sudden arrhythmic death, Barb made it her mission to honour Gayle by giving back to BC Children’s Hospital. Inspired by the research work and care taking place at the hospital, Barb is giving hope to other families facing the same condition as her daughter. Her generosity will help ensure families across BC have access to the latest cardiac research and innovations.

Today, one in every 100 babies in BC is born with a congenital heart defect. Barb’s contributions to the pediatric cardiac care at BC Children’s Hospital is bringing new hope to families battling childhood heart disease and improving the odds of living a long and healthy life.


Long QT Syndrome (LQTS)

is the most common inherited cardiac heart rhythm condition, occurring in 1 in 2000 people. It is caused by abnormalities in the genes that control the heartbeat. LQTS can cause fainting, seizures and cardiac arrest. Research  into LQTS is one of the priorities of the cardiac electrophysiology team at BC Children’s Hospital.


This article was originally featured in the Spring 2022 issue of Shine magazine.
Shine Spring 2022 | Download the PDF

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