CHEO's Toonies for Tots is looking for help from Cornwall area

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Young Adian Collins and his mother Jessie in an undated family photo.

CORNWALL, Ontario - Ten little fingers, ten little toes. Aidan Collins made his entry into the world on Sept. 19, 2010 and was the picture of health. Proud first-time parents, Jessie and Patrick were overjoyed. For Patrick it was an extra special birthday present when his son arrived on his birthday as well.

But the happiness quickly faded when doctors determined Aidan was facing a life-threatening heart condition.

“The first three months at home everything seemed to be perfectly normal,” explained Jessie. “But, he began to cry a lot and we noticed that his hands and feet would turn a little blue when he was really upset.” It was one day at the gym daycare when life changed.

“Aidan got really upset and his feet turned purple so we went to Winchester hospital,” says mom. 

While there Aidan had another crying episode and that’s when it became very evident something was very wrong with their son. Multiple staff rushed to his side, his clothes were cut off and monitors were attached to him.

“Everything was happening so fast,” recalls Jessie. “The next thing we knew we were in an ambulance on our way to CHEO. The emergency room physician even rode in the ambulance to CHEO with us. She warned me that the CHEO staff was ready and waiting for our arrival and that it would be chaotic at first while they tend to Aidan.”

Aidan immediately had ultrasounds, an echocardiogram and a series of other tests to determine his medical condition. That very night Jessie and Patrick had a meeting with a cardiologist who explained that Aidan had Tetrology of Fallot - a heart condition that would require surgery.

“It was all so surreal. It felt like we were living someone else’s life,” explains Jessie.

Tetrology of Fallot is a combination of heart defects including displacement of the aorta that allows oxygen-depleted blood to flow directly from the right ventricle to the aorta, and a host of other problems.

Basically, his normal blood flow was diverted and un-oxygenated blood was flowing to the body instead of to the lungs. Any over exertion, like feeding, causes stress to the heart suddenly further decreasing blood flow to the lungs and “episodes” occur – known as “tet spells.”

That same week Aidan underwent a four-hour surgery to repair his damaged heart.

“The hardest part is passing your baby over to the anesthesiologist before he is taken away for surgery. Words can’t describe that feeling. The staff were so amazing throughout everything, so we knew he was in good hands,” says Jessie. The surgery was a success but Jessie and Patrick remember hearing a page on the overhead speakers an hour before the surgery was scheduled. It was later that day they learned that Aidan had another spell on the operating table while under anesthetic and his operation had to begin earlier than expected.

“It’s such a shock to see your tiny baby with so many tubes everywhere with a large incision down his chest,” says Jessie. “But, the staff had already shown us pictures of other babies so we at least knew what to expect.”

In just a matter of days Aidan was healthy enough to be released from hospital. Being from Long Sault the new family had to stay in Ottawa for one week post-surgery to be close to CHEO should Aidan need to be seen urgently. It was a happy day when Jessie, Patrick and Aidan returned home.

Now two years old, Aidan is perfectly healthy. He’ll need another surgery when he’s older to replace his pulmonary valve but he is developing normally and is in no way restricted in his life. He will have yearly check-ups at CHEO to ensure his heart is healthy.

The family was compelled to find a way to repay CHEO.

In 2011 they held a Heart to Heart fundraiser in Cornwall raising $17,000 for CHEO’s Cardiology Unit and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The evening consisted of a live and silent auction, entertainment by Graham Greer, and heartfelt stories told by The Collins’ and other “heart moms” (a reference to parents whose child has CHD).

Max Keeping was the guest of honour representing CHEO. The whole community came out to support Aidan and CHEO.

“The outpouring of support was amazing and Patrick and I are grateful to everyone who was there for us,” says Jessie. “You just never know when you’re going to need CHEO and we’re just so grateful it was there for our family.”

CHEO is in the midst of another fundraiser to help area children who face similar medical threats. 'Toonies for Tots' is currently underway. Area companies, like The Co-Operators Insurance, have gotten involved by requesting  employees to fill 'Toonies for Tots' containers.

CHEO is asking that other companies or individuals who want to help get in touch with them.

Contact Chantal Charbonneau at the CHEO Foundation by phone (613)-737-2212 or by email

Organizations: Winchester hospital, The Co-Operators Insurance, CHEO Foundation

Geographic location: Cornwall, Ontario, Long Sault Ottawa

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