Norah Murphy is a bit of a superstar in Yarrow.
The young girl is just at the cusp of turning four, but has already captured the hearts of people around her community through her perseverance and strength. Norah was only three months old when her family doctor first heard a heart murmur through the stethoscope.
Heart murmurs aren’t always significant, he told the Murphy family. This was their third child, and parents Robbie and Shannon confidently decided to wait it out, to see if the murmur would disappear on its own.
“A lot of the time they correct themselves,” Shannon says. “We kind of waited, because she was sleeping well and breastfeeding.”
But at her five-month checkup, the murmur was still there. They were sent to BC Children’s Hospital on an urgent referral, and within 12 days the Murphys were handing their little bundle of joy over for heart surgery.
“The best way to describe it is if her aorta is a paper towel, with a crush in the middle,” says Shannon, over a cup of coffee, Norah playing quietly at the table beside her. It’s called a coarctation of the aorta, which is the main artery to the heart.
“She was five and a half months old,” Shannon says. “I wondered if she would live through it.”
To get to Norah’s heart, surgeons had to collapse her lung, dislocate a rib, and go through the side of her chest. Norah indeed lived through the surgery, and even battled off pneumonia that attacked her weakened lung.
There was a GoFundMe account initially started for the family, as they struggled to care for their child in and out of hospital. The once-confident parents had to relearn the basics of caring for their baby without disturbing her chest as she healed. Everything from changing diapers to nursing took more time and care, which they eagerly mastered.
And as Norah grew stronger, her older sisters and the community rallied around her, fundraising for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. Her sisters, nine-year-old Maddie and seven-year-old Layla, even cut their hair as donations for the hospital’s wig program. And the family grows plants each spring for a garage-sale style fundraiser. Each of the sisters has raised $200, for a total of $600.
“She’s like a celebrity,” Shannon says, and on Facebook their followers search out news with the phrase “#teamnorahmurphy.”
And then just this February she went through her second surgery. That was an ASD correction to fix one or two holes that needed correcting in her heart. However during the surgery, they found that she had five holes in her heart.
The surgery involved placing a permanent device in her heart.
“Is she in the clear? We don’t know,” Shannon says. “It’s just a matter of how she does.”
Norah will continue to visit Children’s yearly, as she and her heart continue to grow.
“It’s been a journey for sure,” Shannon says. “We’ve been so blessed by so many people.”
No matter what surgeries or procedures Norah faces in the future, her family intends to continue supporting the hospital in any way they can.
“For them to able to be there, caring for kids all day and still go home to their families, and have so much compassion…” she says. “It’s just a whole different world when your life is altered by a disease.”
The BC Children’s Hospital Foundation has just wrapped up their popular Choices Lottery, but there are numerous ways to support the hospital. It is the province’s only full-service, pediatric acute care hospital, serving the one million children living in B.C. and the Yukon.
For more information, visit bcchf.ca.