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Celebrating Support For Babies Born With Heart Defects

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– It was a room filled with bouncing babies and rambunctious toddlers at the YMCA in downtown Grand Rapids Saturday afternoon.

“We are having a big party to celebrate all the kids who have had open-heart surgery or have some kind of heart defect,” explains event organizer Kelly Huhn.

The two hundred families are part of a growing  group called Mended little Hearts West Michigan, a support system for those touched by heart defects.

“This makes me feel great, I wish we had his when I was a kid,” said Huhn, 30, who was born with a heart defect and started having surgeries when she was just three.

Parents and siblings say the connection with other families has helped them get through some of the toughest moments.

“We didn’t know anybody else who had been through what we were going through,” said Jennifer Whittenbach.

Her 18-month-old son, Lucas, was born with a heart defect and has spent most of his early life in the hospital.

“He was just struggling to survive,” she said.

The family was one of the first to join the support group, which started in November.

It helped them understand what Lucas was dealing with and helped his older brother cope with all the hospital visits.

Little Lucas’ heart is nearly healed, but he is still recovering from stroke after his second surgery.

“He is doing remarkably well and doing things we did not think he would be doing,’ said Whittenbach.

From providing care bags at the hospital to information for pregnant woman who already know they will have a baby with heart problems,  Mended little Hearts of West Michigan,  along with medical advances are providing hope for more families dealing with heart defects.

“Being able to meet people in the community who have or know what I’ve gone through and what Lucas has gone through,  it’s amazing, it’s heartwarming,” said Whittenbach.

For more information on Mended little Hearts of West Michigan, click here. 

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  • Karen R Pate

    Little Lucas Whittenbach is one tough kid. He has been through numerous surgeries and the stroke, yet he has a smile that will light up a room. His mom tells me he is now doing things that he couldn't do at Christmas, so he is working hard to catch up with his twin sister, who gets into enough mischief for both babies. I am very proud of the job that Ryan and Jenni are doing to raise their children. I know it can't be easy, but they are making it work. Luke is my grandnephew. His mom is my niece and yes, I love them all so very much.

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