NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – In the United States, 1 in 100 babies is born with congenital heart defects.
It can be scary, but there is support for parents during this uncertain time.
A local gym is collecting items to help stuff bravery bags that are given to support these families during their time of need.
And one of the trainers at Burn Boot Camp – Norfolk knows all too well how scary this time can be.
Tara Weimer said when her son, Eli Botts, was born, he seemed perfectly healthy.
Thirty-six hours later, doctors heard a murmur in Eli’s heart, and it was a roller coaster of emotions from there.
“We were not aware of this when I was pregnant,” Weimer said. “Everything looked A-OK via ultrasounds and all of that, and even when he was born, they said, ‘You know, you’ve got a perfectly healthy baby.'”
She said it didn’t seem real when she heard the words, “Your baby needs life-saving surgery.”
“You hear people talk about it but you never actually think it’s going to happen to you,” Weimer said, “and like even coming out of your hospital room, you became that family.”
Her son Eli was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, or a CHD, when he was only two days old. Doctors told Weimer there wasn’t enough blood flowing to Eli’s heart.
He was then flown to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and had his first surgery within days of being born.
“You kind of feel alone and you have no idea what’s going on,” Weimer said. “It wasn’t until I got to Children’s Hospital Philadelphia and I was walking the halls and I went in to one of the pumping rooms and I started reading about congenital heart defects. I didn’t even know it was a thing.”
CHDs are the number one birth defect, impacting about 1 in every 100 babies.
“I always say Eli is my 1 in 100,” Weimer said.
But when you see Eli’s energy now, seven years later, you’d never know.
“His heart is perfectly imperfect, and while it isn’t like yours or mine it still beats just right to give him a good life,” Weimer said.
And that’s the outcome every parent is hoping for.
That’s why Weimer and the gym where she trains, Burn Boot Camp, work to give back to families going through this each year by collecting items to put in Bravery Bags.
Mended Little Hearts of Coastal Virginia then takes the Bravery Bags to CHKD to help empower families affected by congenital heart disease.
“Those bags they’re kind of like a sense of hope,” said Tara.
Weimer got one from Mended Little Hearts while she was at CHOP and says it helped her feel at ease.
“When you get to the hospital sometimes you’re not prepared, where we weren’t really prepared,” Weimer said. “I just threw a bunch of stuff in my car because I couldn’t fly because I had a C-section so there was stuff I didn’t have.”
Burn is collecting donations, like crayons, coloring books, travel size toiletries and stuffed animals until March 4.
They’ll have a kids camp that day, so kids like Eli can get together and workout.
“It’s a 30-minute camp,” said Amy-Marie Rossin. “The kids get to do their own workout, they get to do the battle ropes. they get to play on the burn bars, run around, do jumping jacks.”
Rossin said Burn is constantly collecting items and supporting causes just like this one. Rosin’s daughter and niece both had heart defects when they were born, too. She says gym members work to support each other.
“Burn is like more than a gym,” Rossin said. “It’s a community.”
And as Eli’s heart grows with him, the love of giving back to others grows too.
“We’re family so you’re always supported by them,” Weimer said.
You can message Burn Boot Camp’s Facebook page to set up a time to drop off donations or to sign up for the Kids Camp coming up on March 4.
You can get more information about Burn or sign up for a class on their website.