Healing Little Hearts Encore Event in New Bedford Could Enable Clinical Trials
Back in 2007, Kelly Weglowski was a Mattapoisett mom still trying to come to grips with the fact that her son, Brady, was going to have to deal with a congenital heart defect for the rest of his life.
On the surface, Brady was just like any other healthy two-year-old in Mattapoisett. He was doing all of the things two-year-old toddlers do, with one difference: Brady had undergone seven heart surgeries (three of which were open heart, where his heart was stopped) since birth.
Luckily, Brady lives within striking distance of Boston Children's Hospital. A team of the world's best doctors had a plan, albeit a difficult one. Heart surgeons could replace a valve in his heart, but because the artificial valve doesn't grow as the child grows, they'd have to do the risky surgeries repeatedly. The Weglowskis were thankful that there was this option but heard about work that was being done to develop a valve that would grow as the babies grew.
The groundbreaking research was being conducted by Dr. John Mayer (pictured above with the Weglowski family), the senior associate in cardiac surgery at Boston Children's since 1984. He had an idea about how to use living tissue to replace the valve so that the tissue could grow with the baby. This way, the baby's life would only be put at risk once, instead of multiple times.
The problem with this type of research is that it is inherently expensive. After hearing about it, however, Kelly knew she had to help fund it. She formed a committee and organized nine Healing little Hearts Galas that were held at the Whaling Museum. Incredibly, over the nine years, the galas raised just over $1 million for this specific heart research.
Dr. Mayer himself would make the trip down to each gala, and share updates about how the research was progressing. After nine years of hard work, Kelly decided to step back from the fundraising – until now.
She recently got some exciting news from Dr. Mayer. He called to let her know that he was getting extremely close to clinical trials. He was optimistic that in the not-too-distant future this method, which was considered a long shot a decade ago, could actually be put into place at Boston Children's Hospital.
Kelly quickly shot into action, organizing one final Encore Healing little Hearts gala. Her goal is to raise between $100,000 and $150,000 on the night of March 7.
Dr. Mayer is at the virtual one-yard line. While he's no longer performing surgeries, his research continues. Weglowski is hoping for a touchdown very soon.
Brady Weglowski is now a freshman at Old Colony Regional. He underwent his fourth open-heart surgery (and eighth heart surgery) back in December, and, once again, has recovered like a champ. Ironically, at this point in Brady's life, the research that his mother helped fund will probably never be utilized to help him; however, it would save the lives of countless children from all over the world for decades to come.