At first, Sydney’s mum Leah thought her eight-year-old daughter, Jada, was severely constipated. Her little girl’s tummy was swollen and she was experiencing pain in her belly. ( heart failure )
Leah took Jada to the doctors who confirmed her suspicions and gave the little girl medication.
However, after two days, Jada wasn’t getting any better. In fact, her tummy was getting bigger and the kids at school were starting to take notice, cruelly suggesting that Jada ‘looked pregnant’.
Leah booked her daughter into an ultrasound where they uncovered Jada wasn’t constipated. Her organs were enlarged which, Leah would shortly discover, was a sign of heart failure.
Leah and Jada went to the Randwick Children’s Hospital immediately. It was when Leah was driving to the hospital and looked back at her daughter resting in the back seat, with her arms resting on her enlarged tummy, that she knew something was really wrong.
In addition to the swollen tummy, Jada was a lot more tired than her older siblings. She was the baby of the family and napped a lot more than her older siblings ever did at her age.
However, Leah just assumed she was tired from their busy lives and keeping up with the older kids, who were all quite athletic and active.
Leah also recalls how Jada used to get cold very quickly at swimming lessons and had separation anxiety when she was in preschool but she never thought it could be due to a weak heart.
Fluid drained from abdomen
When Jada arrived at the hospital, a crew of specialists set to work. She was placed in ICU and doctors took five litres of fluid from her abdomen. They discovered she didn’t have anything wrong with her liver, but, something was wrong with her heart.
Jada had restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM). Doctors were unsure when her heart would just ‘stop’ and she needed a heart transplant.
For several months, Jada and her family faced an agonising wait for a phone call to let them know a donor heart was available. Every few days during those months Jada returned to the hospital to be checked over.
The family had bags packed at the front door, waiting for that phone call, which finally came 12 months later.
The family hopped on a plane to Melbourne for the heart transplant where Jada stayed for two months. The heart transplant was a success but watching Jada being wheeled into the ICU was absolutely heartbreaking for the family.
Nothing prepares you to see your child on life support,” the mum shared with 7News.
Jada had to attend regular checkups to ensure she wasn’t experiencing organ rejection, something that was extremely traumatic and terrifying for the young girl.
It was then that Jada was put in touch with Make-A-Wish and met her BFF – Penny.
A wish for a cat
Penny, who is a sphinx cat, also has a heart condition like Jada. Like Jada, Penny needs to have heart ultrasounds. Penny and Jada attend their heart ultrasounds together now- in fact, the pair are rarely apart.
“Jada had restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM), and when she came out of her room and said ‘you wouldn’t believe it, but the Sphynx cat can have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and has to have heart ultrasounds like me’. From that very moment, there was a strong connection for Jada,” Leah explains to Make-A-Wish.
Jada is now 12 years old. She’s happy, healthy, strong and full of life. Looking back, Leah admits she cannot believe she missed the signs that her daughter was in heart failure.
Leah shares her daughter’s incredibly brave journey through heart failure to remind parents to “never think it’s nothing”.
You can read more about Jada’s journey through Make-a-Wish. If you are looking for a great cause to donate to, then Make-A-Wish is an ideal choice – they grant wishes to children like Jada every single day. You can learn more about their donation options here.