The Congo Family

As you watch Sara Congo play with her big sister Hailey, you would never know that she fought for her life.

Joel and Karey Congo were living in Salmon Arm, BC, while they were expecting their second daughter. At their 19 week ultrasound, the radiologist couldn’t see the heart well enough. A second ultrasound showed Ebstein’s anomaly, a condition where the fourth chamber of the heart forms very low and does not pump blood effectively to the right side of the body and lungs.

They arrived in Edmonton one month prior to their baby’s due date. Doctors decided to deliver the baby by caesarean section to avoid possible heart failure. Sara was born January 16, 2009, five weeks early at 5 pounds 3 ounces.

The Congos were told about RMHCNA as an option for future visits to the doctors. At the time, RMHCNA was undergoing a major expansion. On September 1, the family arrived back in Edmonton for Sara’s second surgery. RMHCNA was ready to welcome the Congos. Karey said that until they met the House, they had never really enjoyed Edmonton. The opportunities from community donors gave the Congos a chance to experience Edmonton as a family. The tickets to the waterpark, the rodeo, Oilers and Rush games, and Fort Edmonton Park gave them family time.

The House was a refuge for the Congos. They loved making meals and the comfort provided when groups came to prepare meals for the families. It also helped connect them to other House families.

When Sara was critically ill, big sister Hailey’s needs for friendship, community and support were met. There was always a friend for Hailey to play with and something to do at RMHCNA.

On November 23, Sara’s doctor came into her hospital room and the family was told that there was a heart for Sara.

“It was like the whole ward lit up. Prior to our meeting, the nurses all knew that Sara’s heart was available, but couldn’t share the news with us,” remembers Karey.

Sara’s surgery was successful. The family was home three weeks post-transplant, just in time to celebrate Christmas together. Sara comes back to Edmonton for appointments and procedures every few months. The family misses their community of friends at RMHCNA, but are embracing their new life in Entwistle, AB.

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