A young heart surgery patient is showing other kids the importance of a 'bear hug.'
When Siena Smith was 10-months-old, she was diagnosed with a heart condition called Ventricular Septal Disorder. This meant she had a hole in her heart the size of a nickel. On her first birthday, Siena had heart surgery at the B.C. Children's Hospital to close up the hole. She received a teddy bear afterward.
"When I got my teddy bear when I was little, I carried it around everywhere," says Siena. "It helped me."
Siena, along with her parents Sabrina and Mark Smith, live in East St. Paul, Man.
"It was difficult at the time," says Sabrina, recalling the time during the surgery. "It was emotionally exhausting and overwhelming as it is for any parent, but the support we were provided, by the Children's Heart Centre here in Winnipeg was amazing as they make the experience as comfortable as possible."
The Manitoba Children's Heart Centre sees roughly 100 children a year with heart conditions that need surgery.
"I've started a teddy bear fundraiser where I'm trying to reach 100 teddy bears so that when the little kids go home from their heart surgery, they get a teddy bear, just like I did."
As of January 10, Siena collected roughly 70 teddy bears. If she receives more than 100, she'll keep them to give away the following year.
When asked who gave her teddy bears already, Siena says, "My friends, family, and people at Balmoral Hall grade 5 class," which is her school classroom.
People interested in helping out can donate funds or brand new teddy bears by emailing Siena and her parents at email@example.com.
Siena says that getting a teddy bear is important, "because then when kids are older they can remember it. Also, on their way home, they can have something to hug that is just as tiny as them."
The Smith family is grateful to everyone who has already donated.
Today Siena is a healthy 10-year-old with no lasting side effects from her heart condition.