Saanich girl champions drive for heart health

Haleigh Miklic was just six weeks old when she underwent open heart surgery to repair a large hole in her heart.

Haleigh Miklic was just six weeks old when she underwent open heart surgery to repair a large hole in her heart.

When she was 14 months old, her 38-year-old dad passed away from a heart attack, due to a genetic defect known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle has reduced pumping ability.

And up until this past month, Haleigh’s mom, Cindy Heppell, feared her daughter would inherit that same disease.

“We’ve been going through some genetic testing for the last while because there was a 50 per cent chance she would’ve inherited her dad’s heart condition,” Heppell said. “The surgery as a baby was completely unrelated to what she could’ve had now.”

Haleigh, now eight years old, came out of testing, however, with a clean bill of health, much to the relief of the family. “She’s just a real spirited little girl who’s got a passion for giving back, now that we’ve experienced some pretty tough (heart-related) stuff,” Heppell said.

The Grade 3 student at Cordova Bay elementary has raised more than $6,000 in the last three years as part of Jump Rope for Heart, a fundraiser for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. This year alone, her tally is already at $2,600.

The all-day jump rope event doesn’t happen until late April, but Haleigh got a head start on fundraising this year, to coincide with February being national heart month.

“We’re so proud of her. She’s just such a bright light,” Heppell said. “She’s now in a place where she’s just really driven to move forward and help other people.”

Haleigh has launched a website where she’ll post a weekly video offering “healthy heart tips,” and where people can donate to her cause.

Cordova Bay elementary has raised more than $120,000 in the past 22 years as a Jump Rope for Heart supporter.

For more information on Haleigh or to support her cause, visit haleighjumpsropeforheart.com.

– with files from Natalie North

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Healthy heart tips for kids

-Limit TV and computer time, and fill that time with physical activity.

-Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

-Maintain a balanced, nutritious diet. See heartandstroke.ca for healthy meal planning for kids and youth.

 

 

 

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