A Gift From the Heart

September 21, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Fresno family who has suffered the loss of a child continues to help other families get the best medical care, the Valley has to offer.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For more information, visit http://www.childrenscentralcal.org
Or call: (559) 353-7100

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The McDougal family has walked in and out of Children's Hospital Central California in Madera, more times than they would like.

But every time, they are thankful for the care their children have received. Their connection to the hospital's Willson Heart Center began six years ago...when Jennifer and John McDougal welcomed their twin, baby girls. But Mallory was born with congenital heart disease and at 7 weeks old, had to have an operation. Sadly, Mallory died during the open heart surgery..

Mallory's twin, Stephanie, who's now 6 years old, knows part of her family is missing. She said, "Mallory died a long, long time ago and she has heart disease. We miss her so much"

Even after Mallory died, something came alive in the McDougals; the need to make sure other children in the Valley with heart conditions are given every chance to survive.

John McDougal said, "Especially when you've had a baby for the first time, being diagnosed and I know how that feels when the doctor says, there's something wrong".

Jennifer McDougal remembers, "We talked about giving back to the heart center the very night that Mallory died". In Mallory's memory, the McDougals poured their heart and soul into an annual fundraiser they created called "Evening Under the Stars" which benefits the heart center.

Then this summer, the family once again needed its services when Stephanie, who previously got a clean bill of health as a baby, suddenly felt a pounding in her chest.

Jennifer McDougal said her daughter, "came in and said, "Mom, my heart's beating". And I said, "Well great, keep it up" and she said "no Mom, I can feel it, it's in my throat. My own heart hit the floor I just was so afraid of what this would be.

It turned out, stephanie had a condition called supra-ventricular tachycardia which is essentially a glitch in the electrical signal flow of the heart. Children's hospital cardiologist, Dr. Ken Rouillard treated Stephanie before she had to have a surgical procedure at Stanford's Children's Hospital.Dr Ken Rouillard said, "I try to treat every patient as if they were my own child. And that's kind of a rule I learned early on. Doing the right thing and doing the best thing possible for each individual child and so that's how i sleep at night."

With her condition corrected, Stephanie can keep her sister, Mallory close to her heart, while it continues to beat strong. Stephanie says, "They got my heart fixed. And I can play now"

Over the past 6 years, "Evening Under the Stars" has raised more than a quarter-of-a-million-dollars for the Willson Heart Center at Children's Hospital.

This year's event is Saturday, October 3rd at 5:30pm at Fig Garden Golf Course.

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