Grateful Mom Passionate About Giving Back to The Heart Center

April 17, 2014

Seven-year-old Shayna Strauss loves to dance, shop, get manicures and eat sushi. Shayna’s mom, Dawn, is beyond thankful to see her spunky first grader always on the go, because Shayna’s life did not start out that way.

The Heart Behind it All

In 2007, 15-month-old Shayna was diagnosed with congenital heart defects – mitral valve regurgitation and left coronary artery atresia. Dawn spent 11 agonizing days hoping the cardiac specialists at Children’s would be able to save Shayna’s fragile life.

The caregivers in the Heart Center not only gave Shayna a new lease on life, but they instilled hope in Dawn and her family. After those first days at Children’s, Dawn knew she wanted to give back. 

“The Heart Center has brought light to the darkest place of my life,” Dawn said. “The people and the resources available to Shayna and our family have taken the unthinkable and made this journey bearable. Everyone has been extraordinary – from the child life specialist who works on Saturdays that prepared my then 3-year-old to see her sister in the ICU to the nurse who told Shayna that she was lucky she got to wear her heart monitor to preschool so she could show her friends the music box that was recording the music in her heart.”

Making a Difference

In 2010, Dawn found out about the Red Balloon Run & Ride and realized it was the perfect way to give back and honor Shayna at the same time. She created Team Shayna, and with the support of family and friends, the team raised more than $1,000 in one day.

“Team Shayna has made this diagnosis and this life of a mother to a chronically ill child something that I can live with, something that I am proud of,” Dawn said.

Team Shayna has given more than $35,000 to the Heart Center through Red Balloon Run & Ride fundraising, and more than $9,000 has been raised for the 2014 event. Dawn finds ways to get the entire family involved in raising money each year. In 2011, one of their favorite family traditions was established – the Team Shayna Annual PINK Lemonade Stand.

“Team Shayna will raise money so the next 15-month-old girl that is spending time in the cardiac ICU after open heart surgery can look forward to a life of family, birthday parties and ballet,” Dawn said. “I ask you to come out and join us for the Red Balloon Run & Ride this year. Support Team Shayna and help us thank the Heart Center for not only saving my daughter’s life, but for bringing so much joy into lives which could potentially have been filled with so much pain.”

Funds Support Life-Changing Programs

Team Shayna supports two important programs in the Heart Center at Children’s – Home Monitoring and Research.

The money Team Shayna raised in 2010 and 2011 has directly impacted the lives of many children through the Safe-At-Home Program.

Newborns with single ventricle cardiac anatomy are the most challenging and complex of all infants born with congenital heart disease. This diagnosis is associated with the highest rates of morbidity and mortality in current practice. The Safe-At-Home Program is part of a national quality improvement initiative to decrease mortality rates.

All neonates born with a form of single ventricle physiology that undergo surgical or hybrid palliation may participate in the program between the first intervention/surgery and second surgery. The program allows patients to return home to their families and local support system while still receiving the monitoring and care needed to lower readmissions to the hospital and mortality rates.

Physicians to Make Big Strides with Innovative Research

Team Shayna’s funds also support pioneering pediatric cardiothoracic research that will make a difference in the lives of patients for years to come.

With funds from 2012, Dr. Joseph Forbess, division director of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Children’s, purchased a Nikon microscope for the lab to handle fluoroscopic imaging. 

Dr. Forbess, who also serves as the Pogue Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Research and Professor and Chief, Division of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said the microscope allows the research physician and team to see and study cells that could not be seen before. The goals for the microscope are to improve the size of stent technology and to develop new tracheomalacia models for the treatment of airway obstruction. 

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