Second-grader was saved by surgery at 9 days old

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Ivy LeGassick is a healthy, happy 8-year-old after emergency surgery, when she was 9 days old, was required to repair a pulmonary defect that deprived her organs of oxygen.Ivy LeGassick has no memory of the heart surgery she underwent as an newborn to reverse a congenital heart condition, but the 8-year-old is aware of how the procedure influenced the course of her young life.

“It’s a little shocking,” she said of the post-surgery pictures of her infant self. “But I think it makes me feel really good. I’m different from other girls I know.”

Ivy, a second-grader at West Tualatin View Elementary School, is looking forward to celebrating her healthy, happy life this weekend with other children who have survived congenital heart defects. The ninth-annual Children’s Heart Foundation Lion Heart event at the Portland Children’s Museum, 4015 S.W. Canyon Road, across from the Oregon Zoo, will take place on Saturday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Highlighted by a children’s parade and other fun activities, the family-focused event — sponsored by the Children’s Heart Foundation Oregon chapter and Regence Blue Cross and Blue Shield — is intended as a night of fun and fundraising for pediatric heart research.

Occurring in one out of every 100 births, congenital heart defects are the No. 1 birth defect in the U.S. and the leading cause of death during infancy from a birth defect, according to the foundation. Advances in research since the 1980s have saved the lives of thousands of children who now survive defects they wouldn’t have 30 years ago.

Ivy LeGassick was just 9 days old when she underwent surgery at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland. The procedure was to repair a congenital defect in which her pulmonary artery and aorta were transposed, depriving her organs of oxygenated CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Ivy LeGassick had emergency surgery when she was 9 days old to repair a pulmonary defect that deprived her organs of oxygen.

“Her blood was going from her heart to the lungs and back to her heart,” said Julie LeGassick, Ivy’s mother. “Her body was not receiving any oxygen. Normally, they would have been able to detect it (in utero), but they didn’t catch it. It was a bit of a lucky catch the day she was born.”

LeGassick, who also has two 4-year-old twin daughters with her husband, Jeff, said she had little time or energy to react to the potentially dire situation involving her first-born child.

“You’re not in a normal state of mind in that situation. The little baby was born, and she was taken away so quickly it was hard to comprehend what was going on, or the complexity of the situation,” the Washington County resident said.

Ivy’s surgery took between six and eight hours, and her parents were able to take little Ivy home four days later.

“She went from being the most fragile thing in the world to being a completely happy baby,” LeGassick said. “After surgery, she recovered very quickly.”

Ivy pays an annual visit to her cardiologist, and has undergone two catherization procedures, at age 1 and 5, to correct blood flow through her aorta and pulmonary valve. Otherwise, Ivy’s medical profile is as healthy as could be.

“If all goes well, she shouldn’t need additional surgeries,” he mother said.

LeGassick’s experience and subsequent interest in congenital heart defect research inspired her to volunteer with the Children’s Heart Foundation Oregon chapter. Now serving as the organization’s president, she sees her involvement as a way to give something back and help others in similar situations.

“We felt really lucky to have this outcome, when it could be so much worse,” LeGassick said. “It’s our duty to help provide the same outcome for other families.”

Ivy, who enjoys drawing and arts and crafts both in and outside of school, said her favorite part of Lion Heart is playing around at the children’s museum. She’s looking forward to spending time with other children who have shared her experience.

“It changed my life a little,” Ivy said. “Just knowing that makes me feel special.”

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