Hayley Deveaux was excited to celebrate her birthday on Sunday past, Valentine’s Day, and not just because she was born on the day that is set aside to celebrate love, but because she officially became a teenager. Her mom, Patricia Deveaux, was excited for her daughter because she was excited to attain that milestone. To celebrate Hayley’s 13th milestone, Deveaux allowed her daughter to celebrate with a photoshoot and dinner at a restaurant with some of her closest friends. But for Deveaux, Hayley’s birthday was extra special for the simple fact that her daughter made it to age 13.
Heart awareness month means different things to different people, but for Deveaux, it literally means life – her daughter is a true love child having been born on Valentine’s Day, and her heart is hopefully now fixed.
When Deveaux gave birth to Hayley, she was told by the doctors that her daughter would have asthma and that she had a heart murmur – sounds, such as whooshing or swishing, made by turbulent blood in or near the heart. Heart murmurs can be harmless or abnormal.
If the heart murmur is innocent, a person likely won’t have any other signs or symptoms; a person with an abnormal heart murmur may, depending on the cause of the murmur, in infants, have poor appetite and failure to grow normally, heavy sweating with little or no activity, chest pain, dizziness or fainting. They can also have skin that appears blue, especially on the fingertips and lips, swelling or sudden weight gain, shortness of breath, chronic cough, enlarged liver, and enlarged neck veins.
Deveaux said she was told Hayley would “outgrow” her heart murmur and not to worry about it. So, she said she never did, even though she admitted that Hayley, over the years, always had problems with her breathing, which for the family meant that over the years, they made frequent visits to the hospital.
“Her chest would always look like her heart was about to jump out of her chest, but I always thought that it was asthma.”
In 2019, she said Hayley started to complain a lot about chest pain and her heart racing. In response, the mom said she always took her daughter to seek medical attention when she complained, but their solution was to give her medication to calm her down.
It was only through Hayley catching hand-foot-and-mouth disease – a mild, contagious viral infection common in young children – characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet, that she took her to a pediatrician, where during the visit, Hayley’s heart murmur came up. The doctor referred Deveaux and her daughter to pediatric cardiologist Dr. Jerome Lightbourne.
“I spent that whole year just back and forward to the doctor [and having tests done]. It was a lot for me. We were spending a lot of money trying to figure out what the problem was. It slowed down but 2020 came and just before the pandemic, she started right back up again crying for chest pain and heart racing fast and won’t stop. It was so scary.”
Deveaux said she took her daughter back to the doctor and that started the process all over again of repeat visits to get medical attention.
“When her doctor told me that she would have to do a procedure, I was like what and how much would that cost? When he told me the price, $26,500 [discounted], I was like ‘Oh my God! Where am I going to find this money from?’ I spent so much last year with hospitals and doctor visits and now the pandemic was here and I was out of a job,” said Deveaux who had been employed as a housekeeper. “Plus, I had a newborn baby and only my husband, Levardo Deveaux, was working. We didn’t have all the money but we had some.”
With the help of friends, members of Hayley’s swim club, Alpha Aquatics, and the Sir Victor Sassoon Heart Foundation, we were able to make it happen.
Hayley’s surgery was performed on December 17, 2020 at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
“Her surgery was a success. She is doing great,” said Deveaux, although Hayley will be monitored by medical doctors at least for the next year. A check-up three weeks out of surgery showed the doctors that her murmur was slowing in the right direction, and Deveaux said she hasn’t been complaining.
While she did what she could to ensure her child remained pain-free, Deveaux said the heart murmur did not stop her daughter from engaging in normal activities.
“She still would swim and do other stuff – she just had a lot of chest pain and heart racing fast. Today, heart month is life for me. I would do anything to help in any way that I can to make sure other kids can get help. I will always be a fan of heart month. I give thanks to God for helping my daughter get through the procedure. It was scary for her and me, and I give thanks to The Sassoon Heart Foundation and Dr. Lightbourne for caring and being a great support to people in need of heart help.”
February is recognized as heart health awareness month and a special time to bring awareness to people to the need to take care of their hearts, and to raise funds to save children who are in need, because no one ever knows when they will need the help.
The Sassoon Heart Foundation raises money and pays for the surgeries of children of The Bahamas who need assistance to pay for their surgeries.
The foundation has assisted thousands of children since their founding in 1961.
The Bahamas Heart Association is an educational branch that helps to instruct the public on leading heart-healthy lifestyles. The association also raises funds that can assist the Sassoon Foundation.