When Kari Kallen gave birth to her second daughter, Kylee, in 2003, she noticed that her newborn’s hands and feet were very pale compared to the rest of her body; Kari even caught a moment when Kylee’s entire body turned blue.
As nurses took Kylee for her first bath, the baby turned blue for a second time – a sign of an abrupt drop in oxygen. After that incident Kari didn’t see Kylee for several hours, while doctors diagnosed the baby with a congenital heart defect known as transposition of the great arteries. Kylee needed to undergo open-heart surgery at BC Children’s Hospital right away.
But as the Kallen family prepared for a flight from Kelowna to Vancouver, Kari started to hemorrhage and had to stay in the hospital for another night. Baby Kylee was flown to BC Children’s in Vancouver; the family met her first thing the following morning. “We walked through the doors at Children’s, scared of what was ahead of us, but we immediately met an aide who took us to a nurse and straight to Kylee,” recalls Kari. “The first thing they did was put Kylee into her three-year-old sister Kayla’s arms. In that moment I knew everything would be okay.”
A few days after the baby arrived in Vancouver, the cardiac team at BC Children’s operated on Kylee’s small heart. After the harrowing operation, the baby was placed in an induced coma for three days. Kari says those three days were the most difficult for her family. Then the good news came. “The most wonderful words you will ever hear are, ‘she got through this and we have every reason to believe she will be fine.’ The second most wonderful are ‘you can take her home now,’ which, incredibly, happened only 18 days after her arrival,” says Kari.
Meeting Kylee today, it’s hard to see the hurdles she had to overcome as an infant. But it’s what Kari recalls as “the compassion, understanding and love” they felt during their experience at BC Children’s Hospital that got them through the hardest times of their lives.
Today, Kylee is a charismatic, passionate and athletic young girl with a healthy heart. The doctors at BC Children’s will continue to monitor Kylee’s heart until she is an adult.
Kylee is grateful for the care she received at BC Children’s Hospital. Three years ago, she and her sister Kayla formed a charity called “Charity Rocks” that has raised almost $7,000 for various charities in BC.