$25 million expansion at Kosair Children's Hospital to transform - WDRB 41 Louisville News

$25 million expansion at Kosair Children's Hospital to transform intensive care unit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- With a $2 million donation, Louisville's Jennifer Lawrence brought national attention to the life-saving work happening at Kosair Children's Hospital Pediatric Heart Center.

Work that Haley Johnson credits with saving both her children’s lives – the most recent, 6-month-old Kennedy Marie.

"She's a really sweet baby," Johnson explained.

The Glasgow, Ky., mother said little Kennedy might look and act like a normal baby.

"She's moving around she's trying to roll over," Johnson added.

But Kennedy’s life has been anything but normal since she came into this world.

She spent most of her life tethered to machines, where her cooing was drowned out by monitors. 

"She has one kidney, and it is low functioning ... She doesn't have a bladder. We didn’t know until birth that she had an imperforated anus, so right now she has a colostomy bag."

But Johnson said those aren't her daughter's biggest problems.

Kennedy has Tetrology of Fallot, a congenital heart defect in which her heart can't pump enough oxygen to her blood and therefore other organs.

"She would turn blue at times, which was a little scary," Johnson added. “I thought we were losing her."

Doctors discovered the condition when Haley was six months pregnant.

So they brought her to Norton Women’s and Kosair Children's Hospital to monitor her pregnancy and Kennedy’s progress in the womb. Johnson described her fears through tears.

"Is she going to live? What are we going to do? Is she going to make it?”

Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Lucinda Wright explained that heart defects are much more common in children than we think, appearing in eight of every 1,000 births, often requiring surgery.

“Those children have very serious heart disease that, if not repaired, can actually lead to very significant long-term health problems and even death," Wright explained.

Studies show a growing number develop what Wright calls "acquired" heart disease from infection, trauma or even lifestyle.

"We're seeing earlier ages of diabetes and hypertension and other problems that go along with that," Dr. Wright said. "Obesity also leads to heart disease."

Traci Simonsen, Executive Director of the Children’s Hospital Foundation, said many of those children end up at Kosair Children’s Hospital.

"It's astounding the number, and it continues to grow."

Simonsen said about 5,000 children from Kentucky and southern Indiana received more than 17,000 procedures.

So Kosair Children's Hospital is in the midst of a $25 million expansion of its critical care and heart centers.

Simonsen is leading that effort with help from companies like the Beef Jerky Outlet, which raised hundreds of dollars for the hospital last month, and actress Jennifer Lawrence.

"I'm excited to announce that we will be establishing the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation Cardiac Intensive Care Unit," Lawrence said during a taped message.

The Louisville native donated $2 million and called on her hometown to give to Kosair as well.

The money will be used to turn one wing into a new Cardiac Intensive Care complete with fourteen rooms for patients and their families.

"These private settings are going to be able to help children to recover more quickly," Simonsen said.

It's all to help children like Kennedy who still has a long road ahead but thanks to a successful heart surgery, she now has a fighting chance.

"Without Kosair, I wouldn't have my two children."

The Johnson's 3-year-old son also nearly died at birth, and doctors at Kosair saved him.

So far the Children's Hospital Foundation has only raised $7 million.

If you'd like to donate just click here.

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