When Carissa Bram laces up her sneakers for the American Heart Association’s Providence Heart Walk on June 2nd, every step she takes will be to support her baby girl.
17-month-old Abigail was born with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart defect (CHD) in which the left side of the heart is underdeveloped. The aorta and left ventricle are too small and the holes in the artery and septum do not properly mature and close.
Abby’s Adventures is the team founded by Carissa for the Southern New England Heart Walk, and one she hopes to grow.
“Abby had her first open-heart surgery at three days old and she did surprisingly well,” said Carissa.
She was born on October 7, 2017 at Women and Infants Hospital in Rhode Island and was then transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital. It would be five weeks, three weeks of which were spent in the ICU, before Baby Abigail came home.
Congenital heart defects are the world’s number one birth defects. And raising awareness about CHD is something that Carissa Bram is passionate about.
“I’ve found that the American Heart Association raises a lot of awareness and there is so much more we can do for CHD,” Carissa said.
In March of 2018, Abby went into Boston Children’s Hospital for a cardiac catheterization. Carissa said at some point during that surgery Abby suffered a stroke, which affected all of her left side.
“She is doing well and still has some weakness on her left side,” Carissa said. “But kids who have strokes that young tend to recover quickly.”
Carissa and Abby attended the Southern New England American Heart Association’s Little Heart Hero Day at Goddard Park in East Greenwich last fall. It’s a free event held for families impacted by congenital heart defects.
Being able to talk with other parents who have children with CHD is a support system that Carissa relies on.
“There is a camaraderie where we all understand each other,” Carissa explained. “Having a network of families who are going through the same thing you and your child are, it’s nice to have other people understand that without having to say a word.”
In 2017, Carissa took part in the Providence Heart Walk when she was pregnant with Abby. She also walked last year and inspired others to walk as well.
“We had fourteen people walk in 2018 and we called it ‘Team Abigail’, I pushed her in a stroller and we had a great time,” Carissa said. “We are taking part in the 2019 Providence Heart Walk and our goal is that Team Abby’s Adventures will top what we did last year.”
There is still time to sign up for all three of the upcoming Heart Walks in Southern New England. Please go to sneheartwalk.org for more information. If you would like to create a team, sponsor a walk or have more questions, please contact our Heart Walk Directors: Patrice.JeanPhilippe@heart.org (401) 228-2332 and Debra.Honor@heart.org (401) 228-2335.