A smiling and happy 10-month-old, you would never know little Matthew Hartwick has a long list of unique internal health issues, has already had one open heart surgery and is headed for another.
The Kelowna infant was at Kelowna General Hospital this week to undergo an EKG for one visit and be given a special vaccination shot during another in a continuation of hospital visits for the blond-haired, blue-eyed baby boy.
“He seems to have a pretty easy going nature and we hope that will continue,” said his mom Christine Hartwick.
“He’s pretty happy even though he’s been poked and prodded so much.”
Sure enough, Matthew doesn’t enjoy having a dozen wires hooked to his little body.
It’s nap time and there is a crowd trying to hook him up to the machine that will test his heart.
Matthew was born with a very rare and complex congenital heart defect.
Due to a genetic hiccup, the anatomy of his heart is different from a healthy heart.
During his first open heart surgery—at eight months of age—doctors performed a complex operation to improve blood flow to his lungs and other areas of his body.
He will require another open heart surgery in a few years to further improve its function and he may be a candidate for a heart transplant later in life.
“It’s been stressful,” says Hartwick. “You get him home and he’s stable and life goes on.
“Being followed so closely by specialists is a bit of a distraction but I’m happy to do it because he’s my son and I want the best for him.”
Matthew is the second child for Christine and Mark Hartwick. Three-year old Sophia is a healthy toddler. She says she loves being a big sister and loves her brother.
But she is scared as Matthew cries while nurses struggle to get the wires hooked up properly.
“She’s handled it remarkably well,” said Hartwick.
“It was a learning curve for all of us. She’s really great and adores Matty.”
The Hartwicks learned that Matthew had a heart defect 25 weeks into Christine’s pregnancy.
It was news no parent wants to hear. They worried about how the family would manage and cope when Matthew was born.
“Before he was born we thought, ‘How are we going to handle this?’ But you just do. Sometimes we even forget. We’ve had tremendous support from people. He’s had an enormous amount of prayer since day one and that’s made all the difference.”
Some of the support has come from Variety—The Children’s Charity, which helped offset the costs of travel to Vancouver, paying for things like gas, accommodation and parking as the Hartwicks went back and forth to B.C. Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House multiple times.
“It certainly took off some of the stress when we were in Vancouver,” acknowledged Hartwick.
Variety will hold its 45th annual Show of Hearts Telethon Feb. 12 and 13 on Global. Last year the telethon raised $7.4 million, money that helps offset medical care for children such as Matthew.
“Even though we can’t solve all the family’s problems we can ease some of the strain,” said Tami Leidl, Variety’s director of the heart fund.
“A little bit of help, whether it is a parking pass or a meal that day can lighten a heavy load when all a parent can focus on is the well being of their child.”
This week the Hartwick family is focussed on just that, helping Matthew stay healthy.
Following the EKG, little Matthew is back to his calm and happy self.
Those blue eyes look heavy and he’s ready for his mid-morning nap.
First, he will have to go up to the fourth floor for his shot to protect him from the RSV virus.
“We have to be more vigilant about protecting him from getting sick, as any additional strain on his heart could be devastating,” said Hartwick, who seems like a rock as she packs the kids up and heads for the hospital elevator.
“No parent likes to see their child upset, but we know all the extra attention Matty gets is important, so we just roll with it,” she said.
“His long term prognosis is good and we trust that he can lead a fairly normal life, like ride a bike and play with friends. But he will always be followed by cardiology.”