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Looking for Big Hearts

The importance of supporting the American Heart Association during the annual spring fundraising event: The Heart Walk

Looking for Big Hearts

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» Beating the Odds

» Love Yourself First

» Twin Cities Events 2013


Beating the Odds

Jaden's Story

It was a special day for Jeff and Tina Nickel; one of those “big” appointments during Tina’s pregnancy—right up there with finding out they were pregnant and hearing their baby’s heartbeat for the first time. It was the 20-week ultrasound—and while they weren’t finding out the sex of their baby, they would be finding out how Baby was developing.

The high school sweethearts—who had just been married in June—assumed, at this appointment, they would hear the words “Everything looks just fine.”
Instead they heard that they needed to see a specialist.

“We went home in complete shock,” says Tina.

In the CentraCare Heart and Vascular Center of the St. Cloud Hospital, a fetal echocardiogram was performed by Dr. Chip Martin (most often referred to as “Dr. Chip”), pediatric cardiologist/neonatologist. He also ordered a level II ultrasound.  

The diagnosis? Their baby had a congenital heart defect, with a severely underdeveloped left ventricle. According to the American Heart Association, congenital heart defects are America’s No. 1 birth defect. Nearly one of every 100 babies is born with a CHD.

Tina went in for non-stress tests every two weeks until she was 32 weeks along, and then weekly from that point on. Baby continued to grow… and grow and grow. When it was close to her estimated due date, her ob/gyn recommended an induction. On March 11, 2004, Jaden Louise Nickel was born at 9 pounds and 20 inches long, welcomed by a medical team and a helicopter on standby.

After just six hours in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Jaden was back in her parents’ arms. She nursed well, she was breathing ok, Jeff and Tina were given the green light to bring her home.

A few days after being discharged, Jaden went into heart failure. She was seen by Dr. Jamie Lohr, pediatric cardiologist at the University of Minnesota. Her first open heart surgery was scheduled. She was four weeks old.

Jaden had four open-heart surgeries from April to September, battling many complications in between. Five years later, she had a fifth open heart surgery to replace a mitral valve.

Today she is 8, with two youngers siblings—Spenser, 6, and Tayler, 2. She sees Dr. Chip once a year, takes five daily medications, and owns a special monitor that tests her blood. She can’t play contact sports, ride on rollercoasters, or soak in hot tubs. What she can—and does—do is read, play house, participate in 4H, bowl, and swim. In many ways, she’s your typical 8-year-old.

Only she’s not.  

“She has endured more in her short time on earth than some 80-year-olds,” Tina says.  

When you meet this charming little girl, you’d never know what she’s been through. Her smile is contagious. She leaves a positive lasting impression.

In February of 2005, Jaden’s family formed their first Heart Walk team, “Walking for Jaden.” Over the past eight years, they’ve raised more than $25,000 for the American Heart Association.

“The Heart Walk provides an opportunity for community members to rally together for a cause and make a difference,” says 2013 Heart Walk Chair, Eric Elliott, president and CEO of Prime Therapeutics. “My company is planning to engage our employees during this important effort.”  

The Heart Walk provides a “common ground” for those who have been affected by heart disease or defects; she says, a celebration of life and all its infinite possibilities.
Join Jaden and her family at the Heart Walk. They know all too well that research saves lives.

May 4, 2013—Target Field, Minneapolis
7 a.m.-1 p.m.
Free family health fair with giveaways.
Start a team online today! twincitiesheartwalk.org

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