Parents trying to save daughter 

Family raising research money

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Two-year-old Mikayla M. Garvey is held by her mother, Jennifer C. Garvey. She and her husband, Kevin Garvey, started a drive to collect coins to directly benefit the cardiovascular program at Children's Hospital in Boston.

OXFORD — A local couple gained unanimous support last night from the Board of Selectmen for a fundraiser that the mother and father hope could pay for research that might save their daughter and thousands of other babies and children born with life-threatening heart defects.

Jennifer C. Garvey and Kevin D. Garvey of Whiting Road, with help from daughters Kelsey C. Garvey, 8, and Mikayla M. Garvey, 2, are holding a "Change for the Heart" coin collection at the Alfred M. Chaffee School.

With permission gained from selectmen yesterday, collection cans will also be placed at area businesses. All proceeds will go directly to the cardiovascular program at Children's Hospital in Boston, Mrs. Garvey said.

"My hope is to raise a lot of funds. Research is needed. Right now, the life expectancy of someone with Mikayla's defect is 22 years. I want more for her," Mrs. Garvey said.

In hopes of gaining support for their cause, the Garveys are sharing Mikayla's story. "If you put yourself behind a closed door, you can't help others," Mrs. Garvey said.

Last night, she introduced Mikayla to selectmen, asking that the board recognize this week, Feb. 7-14, as National Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. The board voted unanimously to do so.

Selectman Susan M. Gallant said, "My nephew, Manny, has the same disorder as Mikayla. Thank you very much. This is important."

Jennie L. Caissie, chairman of the board, said, "This provides an opportunity to raise public awareness."

Mikayla, a tiny girl with huge blue eyes and long, curly blond hair, was born on Sept. 4, 2003, with a rare heart defect, hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This means that the entire left side her heart is basically missing. Without treatment, this defect is usually fatal within the first few days or months of the baby's life, according to the American Heart Association's Web site at

Mikayla's pediatrician, Dr. Nancy W. DeTora, said it is vital to catch defects such as Mikayla's early, through ultrasound testing.

Mikayla's underdeveloped heart first stopped beating when she was 4 days old. She was put on a ventilator and had her first heart surgery the following day. Her second surgery was done when she was 4 months old.

"She just really noticed the scar on her chest yesterday, in the bathtub. She calls it her 'car,' since she has trouble pronouncing her S's," Mrs. Garvey said.

That scar will have to be opened for a third open heart surgery on March 8.

Mikayla is bright and active, but there are signs that there is a problem. At 29 months of age, she weighs only 20 pounds and wears clothes designed for a child 12 to 18 months old.

"She's been the same weight for 18 months. She should weigh closer to 30 pounds," Mrs. Garvey said.

When Mikayla runs for more than a few minutes, she becomes short of breath, and her tiny fingers, toes and lips take on a blue tinge from lack of oxygen.

A cold she caught last week sent her to the emergency room. An oxygen tank still stands ready to supplement her intake when needed.