HEART OF A HERO
A BEELIAR woman who set up a playgroup for children with heart problems says she is grateful for the sense of connection and support which has sprouted from the group.
Jess Pianta’s son Alex was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a complex and rare heart defect present at birth.
With no surgeons in Perth able to operate, Ms Pianta was forced to travel to Queensland, where a newborn Alex underwent two open heart surgeries in his first few months of life.
After returning from the emotional ordeal, Ms Pianta said she felt a sense of detachment.
“I spent five months in hospital with my son because we had to take him over east and when we got back I felt isolated, like nobody understood,” she said.
“Being sent over and coming back is quite isolating; you’re cut off because you’ve been in hospital for a few months. Life is supposed to go back to normal when you get out, but it’s not.”
Roughly 18 months on from her return, Ms Pianta has helped establish a playgroup purely for kids living with congenital heart disease and her efforts have been recognised with a nomination for a local hero award.
Her group now spans around 20 parents, who meet weekly to give their kids a chance to play with other children living with a similar condition.
Children with a congenital heart disease risk becoming seriously ill if they are exposed to bugs that healthy kids at regular playgroups might simply brush off.
With Alex again set to go under the knife before the end of the year, Ms Pianta said she was thankful for the constant support the group provided.
“As much as our friends and family are great, until you’ve been in that situation where your kid is unwell and going through multiple surgeries, it’s hard to relate to the parents,” she said.
“Building relationships with people who have been through same thing and the support they provide, they understand what you’re going through, it’s nice to have someone in your corner who’s been there themselves.”
While she is the sole nominee from the group for the award, Ms Pianta paid tribute to her friend Angie Robinson, who she heralded as the “driving force” behind the group’s establishment.
“She’s been by my side; she’s got a little girl with a similar condition, we went over to Brisbane with our kids together, and she was the first to connect and realised we needed something like that,” she said.
Ms Painta has been nominated for a Westfield Local Hero grant, with $10,000 to go to non-profit heart disease organisation HeartKids if she wins.
The grants will be decided by an online public vote, with winners announced on October 27.
To vote, search online for Westfield local heroes 2020.