‘There’s going to be really low, lows...’ A Colorado family is raising awareness on Congenital Heart Defects through fundraiser

WATCH: Colorado mom talks effects of daughter's Congenital Heart Disease diagnosis
Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 6:24 PM MST
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WOODLAND PARK, Colo. (KKTV) - The birth of a child may be considered one of the best reasons to go to the hospital. A cry turns into a coo, and that newborn is soon sent home to start their life. But for the Sieracki family, that first visit lasted longer and led to countless other stays.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” sighed Rachel Sieracki, mother to two-year-old Winter Marvel.

Winter suffers from a disease that impacts more than a million newborns each year and is the most common cause of infant death from birth defects. Congenital Heart Defects are lifelong, and can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and how it works.

“I think the hardest part the last few years is accepting that you’re going to have a chronically ill child and it’s nothing that’s cured,” said Sieracki.

Winter was born Dec. 13 at Children’s Hospital Colorado but she wasn’t allowed to leave until Christmas Eve, and her stay in the real world wouldn’t last long. On New Year’s morning, Sieracki checked Winter’s oxygen saturation levels and found it was a lot lower than normal, which prompted an emergency visit to the hospital. Winter, who was not even three-weeks-old, had her first open heart surgery that day. She’s had three open heart surgeries and five cardiac catheterizations since.

“It’s something you have to experience to really understand,” explains Sieracki, who says Winter’s been hospitalized so many times, she’s lost track.

Nationally, February is recognized as American Heart Month, and from the Feb. 7 through the 14, the focus is on Congenital Heart Defects. This year, the Sieracki family is working with the non-profit, Mended Hearts Inc., to help raise awareness.

“We’re raising funds that go directly to the Children’s Hospital Colorado Heart Institute, specifically for research and innovation,” said Sieracki, who’s been able to find support through the nonprofit sector, Mended Little Hearts.

Everyone is encouraged to donate through this Donorbox web page and support the Heart Institute’s mission to preserve and improve the health of newborns suffering from CHD.

As for the Sieracki family, they know how to keep a positive perspective, which will come in handy as they continue to face the long road ahead.

“There’s going to be really low lows where you’re going to think, ‘it can’t get any lower,’ and it does,” said Sieracki. “You just have to take a break, appreciate what you have, and really, really embrace the good times.”

Winter Marvel Sieracki hospitalized after being born with a Congenital Heart Defect.
Winter Marvel Sieracki hospitalized after being born with a Congenital Heart Defect.(Rachel Sieracki)

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