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Rosalie gets her heart

Orillia girl, in hospital since day after her birth, receives heart transplant

It was a quick birth.

Rosalie Audia arrived even before the midwives were able to show up.

Brian and Samantha Audia welcomed their third child on Feb. 23. It was their second home birth.

Everything seemed fine that night. The next day, the Audias’ lives changed.

“We noticed that when she would cry, her colour wasn’t right,” Brian Audia recalled.

He was out shopping for the upcoming birthday party for one of his kids when a midwife called Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital to speak with a pediatrician about Rosalie’s condition.

“Call an ambulance right now,” the doctor said.

Not long after Rosalie arrived at the hospital, she was airlifted to Toronto. The Hospital for Sick Children ran tests that night and discovered Rosalie had three congenital heart defects, the most worrisome being pulmonary atresia, impeding the flow of blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.

Rosalie also had a rare single coronary artery as well as an atrial septal defect, affecting the septum between the two upper chambers of the heart.

The diagnoses were nearly incomprehensible for the family.

“I started thinking, with my eyes half-open the morning after we got the news: What’s going to happen to my family, my work?” said Audia, who owns A&G Roofing in Severn Township. “I started to go down a dark path. Something inside me said, ‘Stop. You’ve got today. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but you’ve got Rosie today.’”

Watching his infant daughter fight for her life since she was born four months ago has been “tough, to say the least,” Audia said, “but it’s encouraging at the same time.”

Rosalie’s condition was deemed inoperable, so she was put on the list for a heart transplant.

The good news came Tuesday morning.

Just before 7 a.m., Audia heard a familiar voice at the door of the hospital room he and his wife were in. It was the doctor, and Audia overheard her saying, “I have to wake her up.”

“As soon as I heard those words, I jumped out of bed,” he said.

They were told a heart had become available for Rosalie.

Her parents were grateful, but they were also realistic.

“The tragic has to happen to another family before an infant gets an organ,” Audia said. “You’re hoping and praying that an organ comes, but you also know what has to happen for that organ to come. It’s absolutely heart wrenching.”

Another family’s tragedy has provided renewed hope for Orillia’s Audia family. Rosalie received her new heart during an operation Wednesday morning. As of Friday afternoon, she was recovering “very well” in the intensive care unit at SickKids, Audia said. Rosalie is expected to remain in the ICU for about a week, before she is moved back to the fourth-floor cardiac unit. The average hospital stay while recovering from a condition like this is four to five weeks.

While Samantha Audia was staying at the hospital with her daughter, her husband was there as often as he could be. It took a toll on their other children, who are two and six years old.

“We wanted some normalcy for them,” Brian Audia said.

So, they have been back home in Orillia since April.

He praised his wife’s resiliency throughout the ordeal.

“My wife is an absolute rock. I’ve said since we had to part ways that I’ve got the easy job (being home in Orillia). Her life has been put on hold,” he said. “She’s the best mom a kid could have.”

He said the family is grateful for the support shown by friends, family and members of the community.

“From people jumping in to support, to encourage … the goodwill that has come out of this is overwhelming for me as a person, but even more so as a dad.”

He hopes the ordeal can serve as a reminder about the benefits of organ donation. Adults have the opportunity to register as organ donors, but it’s a much more sensitive, and often sudden, situation when it comes to an infant. A grieving family has to make that decision quickly.

“It’s so very important,” Audia said.

Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is an experienced multimedia journalist and editor who covers Orillia and other parts of Simcoe County.
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