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Liam's unexpected journey

Posted on 06/08/2009 12:00am

By Matthew Hoekstra - Richmond Review
Published: August 06, 2009

Liam is like most infants. He likes naps, days at the park and playing with his brother. But when it comes to toys, forget Playskool and Fisher Price, Liam likes banging pots, fiddling with kettles and testing spoons.

Mom couldn't be happier.

Nine days after he was born on July 31, Liam gave his Seafair family an unimaginable scare-a scare doctors stared in the face to help make this family whole again. Now nearing his first birthday, Liam's family is determined to give back in a simple way it can.

Born in Syria, Juliane Khadra came to Canada in 2001. She married Iyas and her son Ian was born a healthy, happy baby.

By all accounts, Liam arrived the same way two years later.

Nine days after his birth, Liam went for a routine medical checkup in Steveston. But while waiting, Liam had trouble breathing. Staff called 911 and an ambulance rushed the family to B.C. Children's Hospital. Tests revealed he had a rare heart disorder-an interrupted aortic arch-that prevented oxygen-rich blood from reaching all areas of the body.

Mom Juliane, 34, did everything she was supposed to during pregnancy, but blamed herself anyway. She wanted answers.

"Why us? Why me? Why my kid? Why didn't I know about this before?"

Within days Liam had open-heart surgery, but there were complications. Blood clots forced doctors to operate a second time and prescribe blood thinning medication for the young boy, who stayed in hospital for over a month.

Today he's doing great. He could face another operation when he reaches his teens, but he's no longer on medication and his prognosis is positive.

The family had plenty of support through the ordeal, from hospital staff and volunteers to Juliane's parents, who travelled from Syria to help during Liam's month-long hospital stay.

Juliane experienced a medical system she believes many don't appreciate. So for Liam's first birthday party at Dixon Park, his guests were encouraged to bring donations for B.C. Children's Hospital instead of presents.

"Most of our kids they have almost everything; our houses are full of toys, clothes, everything. So at least, we remember that $1 can make a difference, and that's the least we can do to help others in the community."

While in hospital, Juliane saw enough sick children to break her heart. She also saw enough care, love and support to warm it.

In Syria, she says, Liam wouldn't have been given the same chance to live.

"People that might live here take it for granted. But honestly if we were somewhere else in the world, I don't think I would have him here, so I'm really grateful," she says in a broken voice. "I'm really happy."