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Half a heart… Full of love

Maggie, 7, left, and her sister, Abigail, 9, embrace each other before talking about what has become a lifelong conversation — heart disease. Maggie was born with an underdeveloped left ventricle. In layman’s terms, it’s known as having a “half of a heart”.

Maggie, 7, left, and her sister, Abigail, 9, embrace each other before talking about what has become a lifelong conversation — heart disease. Maggie was born with an underdeveloped left ventricle. In layman’s terms, it’s known as having a “half of a heart”. Raine Dufrane

At the 22nd week of Judy Walsh’s pregnancy, everything changed.

“I never dreamed there would be a problem,” Judy said. Even so, after the routine sonogram, the hospital technician told her there was something wrong.

Now, Judy and her husband, Joe, would be seeing a pediatric cardiologist — a type of doctor they didn’t even know existed.

While there was a discussion of possibilities such as their baby girl having Down syndrome or hole in her heart.

Upstate Medical University’s Dr. Frank Smith, a pediatric cardiologist, informed the couple that Maggie would be born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This is a congenital heart defect and it means Maggie’s left ventricle would be underdeveloped.

In other words, she would be born with half of a heart.

Both Judy and Joe were grateful for being informed about Maggie’s condition, especially because many generations of parents did not have the luxury of telling sonograms or prenatal testing.

Equipped with knowledge, the choice was made — Maggie would undergo three stages of surgery.

Just a few short days after Maggie was born, she was in surgery. While she would begin a fight for her life, her big sister Abigail, only 2 years old at the time, would be joining the fight along with their parents.

“You learn a lot,” Joe said. “It changes your perspective.”

Judy said that family and friends became a great support, but also their church and the surrounding community. Bellvue Heights Nursery School in Syracuse hosted “Maggie’s Carnival” to raise funds for Maggie’s medical costs.

“People we didn’t even know came,” Joe said.

At nine months, Maggie underwent her second procedure, and then she was all of 5 years old for her third procedure. “She was just starting to understand all of this,” Judy said. “But it’s just the way it’s always been…she has a special heart.”

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