October 18, 2010 — it’s a dark day forever etched in my memory.
My wife and I sat watching our tiny daughter, four months old, but weighing just nine pounds. She was strapped to a hospital bed in the ICU at BC Children’s Hospital, recovering from open heart surgery.
The doctors told us the surgery went well.
With Maya’s tiny hand clutched tightly around her mommy’s finger, suddenly there was a vacant look in her eyes.
Her heart had stopped beating.
What happened next remains a blur.
We were pushed aside as the doctors and nurses sprang into action, beginning CPR and chest compressions.
Escorted into a private room, we were left to sit and wonder. What was happening to our daughter? Was she going to be OK?
All I can remember is thinking, ‘I can’t lose my baby girl,’ a giant lump in my throat, my head throbbing as I tried to be strong and hold back the tears.
Her heart stopped for 22 minutes, but they were able to save her.
She spent the next week hooked up to an ECMO machine — the machine pumps blood through the body, causing the blood to bypass the heart and lungs, allowing the organs to rest and recuperate. A nurse was by her side at all times, monitoring every beep.
Once she was off the machine, Maya spent the next few weeks recovering from the trauma her body had suffered.
It was a difficult time, watching my child, lying listless in her hospital bed, a tangle of tubes and a constant stream of doctors and nurses checking on her throughout the day.
But she would be OK, going from the ICU to a hospital room a few weeks later and then, finally, home.
We realized we needed to do something to show our gratitude, to give back, and Team Miracle Maya was born.
A goal of raising $100,000 for BC Children’s Hospital was set — the approximate cost of one ECMO machine.
Our efforts began in 2013, when Maya was nearly three years old and we held our first Share A Smile fundraiser.
The plan was to raise the money by the time Maya turned 18. But last Saturday night (March 17) in Surrey, we held our fifth and final Share A Smile, surpassing our goal in less than five years.
Except for the long, jagged scar on her chest, my daughter looks like most other seven-year-olds, a happy little girl who loves to sing and dance.
Maya still regularly visits BC Children’s Hospital for appointments and has undergone seven surgeries, including another open-heart surgery in 2016 to fix a second hole, discovered during the initial operation. Once again, she flat-lined after surgery, this time for one minute.
Another surgery still awaits as Maya will need to have her pulmonary valve replaced at some point down the road.
We’ve reached our goal, but none of it would be possible without our family, friends and community and for that we say thank you.
Eight years ago our lives were turned upside down and we are grateful for all those who have helped us through this dark period so that we can look forward to brighter days ahead with our daughter.
Gary Ahuja is a sports reporter for the Langley Times.