Finnan's aunt, Casey, was born with congenital heart disease. So was Finnan.
Finnan and Casey were both born with atrial septal defects (ASD), a type of congenital heart disease that affects the flow of blood between the two upper chambers of the heart.
In an amazing set of coincidences, they were also both also cared for at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (formerly the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children) by the same doctor, Professor Gary Sholler.
Although congenital heart disease is no stranger to Finnan’s family, with mum, Rebecca, also born with a heart defect, Finnan’s diagnosis still came as a shock.
“I was devastated and so scared when I found out. I was only 25 weeks pregnant and couldn’t believe that this was happening again, this time to my baby,” Rebecca said.
Within hours of having surgery, six-year-old Finnan was up and running around – a stark contrast to his Aunty Casey who had surgery for the same heart condition 25 years before.
During such a stressful time, Rebecca was fortunate to not only have a doctor she could turn to, but a familiar face as well.
“After his diagnosis, we were referred to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and I was so relieved to see Professor Sholler; he put me at ease straight away and reassured me about everything that was going to happen.”
“No parent wants to hear the news that their child has a defect of any kind but knowing my sister had the same condition and seeing her do so well gave me hope. I knew we were in good hands,” Rebecca said.
While there were a lot of similarities between Casey and Finnan’s care, advances in technology meant Finnan’s condition could be treated by a keyhole procedure rather than the open heart surgery and long recovery his Aunty went through.
“When Casey had her surgery, she was attached to so many different machines and spent weeks in hospital recovering but Finnan’s surgery was less than two hours long,” Rebecca said.
According to Rebecca, Finnan was a little disappointed he wasn’t getting a cool scar like his mum and Aunty but it was a huge relief that he didn’t have to go through the same major surgery they had.
With Finnan now doing well, his family have joined a research study using genetic testing to try to determine the causes of congenital heart disease.
“It’s my hope that this research will find something that can put an end to congenital heart disease so no one else in my family – or any other family – has to go through this,” Rebecca said.
Advances in technology, equipment and research are made possible by the generosity of the community, who contribute millions of dollars in donated funds to events like the Bandaged Bear Appeal.
This year, Finnan and his family are ambassadors for the 30th anniversary Bandaged Bear Appeal, and are encouraging the community to show their support to help families just like theirs.