HeartKids, Two Feet and a Heartbeat 2020: Inaugural walk is going virtual

THRIVING: Emma Dennis and her daughter Harper, 6, who had open heart surgery just eight days after she was born. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 090120charper
THRIVING: Emma Dennis and her daughter Harper, 6, who had open heart surgery just eight days after she was born. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 090120charper

AT just eight days old Harper Dennis underwent open heart surgery as her tiny body fought to survive.

The tiny NSW Central Tablelands girl was born three weeks premature and was one of eight babies born every day in Australia with a congenital heart disease.

Fast forward six years and Harper has been selected by HeartKids to be the face and ambassador of Bathurst's inaugural Two Feat and a Heartbeat Charity Walk on October 18, with people from all across the country encouraged to take part, virtually.

Six years ago when Emma Dennis was pregnant with Harper, the first-time mother was filled with excitement until it came time for her 20-week scan.

Despite an OK from medicos, Harper was smaller than she was meant to be and by 30 weeks Ms Dennis found out her tiny baby had a congenital heart condition.

"There was a transposition of the great arteries in her heart. It's when the aorta and the pulmonary formed on the wrong side," Ms Dennis said.

"They said they could certainly do surgery, but there's a fifty-fifth chance your baby may live or die.

"It was scary."

When Ms Dennis was 37 weeks pregnant, on April 14, 2014, Harper was born via emergency cesarean and was immediately put on life support.

"They pushed her up to my head and said 'she's going to Westmead Children's Hospital'," she said.

"I didn't see her again until the next day."

Eight days after Harper was born she had an arterial switch to restore normal blood circulation to her tiny body.

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These days, six years later, Harper is in Grade One at primary school.

"She's my miracle baby. If you met her you wouldn't know she'd been through this because she's outgoing and outrageous," Ms Dennis said.

Ms Dennis said HeartKids was there for her when she needed it by providing free accommodation, food vouchers and counselling as Harper fought to survive.

The Two Feet and a Heartbeat Charity Walk might be held annually across Australia with masses of people hitting the streets to raise funds, but COVID-19 has forced plans to change.

In Bathurst and across NSW, the walk will be virtual with people urged to donate online or to form small groups with friends or family to start a fundraising page and do their own walk.

Start your own fundraising page for HeartKids or make a donation to Emma Dennis' HeartKids page to help children like Harper.

This story Get walking to help heal children with broken hearts first appeared on Western Advocate.