Nineteen hours after her life began on March 1, 1997, Samantha McCain’s future turned grim.
Just as she and her mother were about to be discharged from the hospital, doctors detected a heart murmur. She was transferred from the hospital in Tracy, California, to Children’s Hospital of Oakland. Her parents, Steve and Pam McCain, were told their baby had one of the most serious congenital heart defects—hypoplastic left heart syndrome
"The doctors gave us three choices," Pam recalls. "Do nothing and let her die; wait for a heart transplant; or, opt for a series of three surgeries. I have to say this was our darkest moment. But it only took us a few minutes to decide. We knew we couldn’t do nothing, and the uncertainty of a heart transplant was not how we wanted to proceed—so we chose the surgeries."
Two open-heart surgeries later--the first, at four days old and the second, at eight-and-a-half months--Samantha is doing very well. Another surgery will be required in a couple of years.
The McCains’ experience prompted Pam to become an active volunteer for the American Heart Association. "We’ve been lucky," she notes. "Just a few years ago, such heart defects often were not diagnosed in time. Because of advances in cardiovascular research, Samantha’s condition was caught only 19 hours after her birth.
"Research saves lives, not only our daughter’s, but others in our family, as well," continues Pam. "At about the same time I was getting involved with the American Heart Association, my father-in-law suffered a mild heart attack and my brother had a stroke at the age of 42. Both are doing well today, again because of treatments resulting from research supported by the association."