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Family grateful for community support

Posted on 13/08/2009 12:00am

Donations have taken some of the stress off of Marty and Sarah Anctil whose 21-month-old daughter Allison is undergoing heart surgery to correct two birth defects next month. Until then, it's life as normal for Alli, as she is known to family, and her affectionate three-year-old brother Jayden.

Amy Dove/News staff

By Amy Dove - Goldstream News Gazette
Published: August 13, 2009

When Brenda Murray listened to her granddaughter's heart it ticked like it was 90 years old.

The thing is, Allison Anctil is just shy of two years old and bursting with energy. Nearly four months ago she was diagnosed with three birth defects in her heart. She is undergoing surgery in September, taking the Colwood family to BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver. Thanks to $4,500 raised by the community, they don't have to worry about how they will pay for accommodations or those first prescriptions, says mom Sarah Anctil.

"Thank you doesn't feel like enough," she says. "It's a whole new level of gratitude."

Friends and family donated money to the Anctils, but so did total strangers. A fundraising barbecue in July was made possible by donations from local businesses, individuals and Colwood Fire Rescue.

They fed more than 100 people almost entirely for free, Anctil says, adding they used roughly $200 of their own money.

Businesses also contributed to 10 raffle baskets and neighbourhood kids collected bottles and did chores to help out, she says.

"It was a really incredible lesson to have to put yourself in a position to say “yes, I need help,'" Anctil says. "We have been touched in a way that I don't know we will ever be again."

Summer plans are on hold as the family learns about Allison's condition. Known as coarctation of the aorta, a section of Allison's heart is narrower than it should be, restricting the flow of oxygenated blood to her lower body. She also has patent ductus arteriosus, relating to a duct that should have closed when she was born. An upcoming surgery will correct the first two conditions while a third - a bicuspid aortic valve instead of a normal tricuspid valve - will be monitored throughout her life.

"Alli will be a cardiac patient for the rest of her life," Murray says.

"We will be checking that valve forever," Anctil adds.

Through it all though, Allison is just a regular 21-month-old, thriving in every other way. She is strong and determined, Anctil says. They call her a tough little monkey.

While she has no outward symptoms, Allison has high blood pressure and an enlarged left ventricle - both of which should be remedied by the surgery.

"I'm confident we are going to the best place possible, with the best doctors possible," Anctil says.

Anctil and husband Marty hope to continue fundraising for cardiac care, although in the future it will be for other children. In June they raised $500 for the cardiac care ward at BC Children's Hospital and when things settle down at home they would like to repeat that effort, Anctil says. Any money not used for Allison's recovery will also be donated to the cardiac ward at BC Children's Hospital.