Forever CHEO Stories – Sharonne and Amalya Katz

If there is such thing as a fortunate accident, then that is what happened to Amalya and Sharonne Katz.

“In 2005 my daughter Amalya and I were in a serious car accident,” says Sharonne. “Given Amalya was just five weeks old I took her to our family doctor right away. She listened to her heart and then sent us to CHEO where we were told that our daughter needed to be seen by a cardiologist.”

Just two weeks later Amalya was back at CHEO for tests including an echocardiogram and a visit with CHEO cardiac surgeon, Dr. Maharajh, who informed the family that Amalya had coarctation of the aorta and needed surgery. He explained that this can be difficult to detect at birth, but is more evident at five to six weeks of age. “It was a miracle we had the accident at that time because her next checkup would not have been until she was eight weeks old,” says Sharonne.

Amalya presents Dr. Maharajh with a cheque for the Amalya Katz Endowment Fund

Amalya presents Dr. Maharajh with a cheque for the Amalya Katz Endowment Fund.

The day of the operation was a stressful one for the family but regular updates from CHEO staff alleviated some of their nerves. After surgery Amalya was moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where she was on life support with machines breathing for her. “On the second night, I stayed at CHEO with Amalya,” says Sharonne. “Her blood pressure started spiking. What I didn’t know was that if her blood pressure got too high, the stitches in her aorta could have popped and she would have likely died. Dr. Maharajh stayed with her most of the night and she survived! The care she received from the nurses was great and Dr. Maharajh visited Amalya every day. We are so grateful for the treatment our baby received.”

After eight days, baby Amalya was well enough to go home and is living a healthy life. Amalya is now 10 years old and loves to ask her cardiologist, Dr. Gardin, questions about what happened to her as a baby. “Our daughter has made a complete recovery because of the amazing staff at CHEO,” exclaims Sharonne. “The only sign she has to show for what she went through is a small scar on her back and a picture in a photobook.  We are ever grateful for Dr. Maharajh and the team at CHEO.  We were given the gift of our daughter twice.  Once when she was born and once when she was saved at CHEO. Thanks CHEO!”

The family was so thankful to CHEO they wanted to leave a legacy so other patients will receive the exceptional care CHEO has become known for. Amalya’s grandparents, Sid and Tyleen Katz created the Amalya Katz Endowment Fund.  Sid and Tyleen have been donating regularly in order to build enough capital to create this fund which will live on in perpetuity. As a generous gesture of gratitude to the staff that saved their granddaughter’s life the Katz’ decided to direct the fund toward assisting families who must travel to CHEO from outside the country for cardiac surgery and treatment and for other needs in CHEO’s cardiac surgery department. The interest generated from this fund will help children and families now and for generations to come.

On the day the family signed their paperwork the Foundation staff had a special surprise. Dr. Maharajh paid a visit to his former patient and her family. When Amalya’s surgeon entered the room the surprise and pleasure was evident with the audible gasps of delight. The last time they saw each other was ten years earlier. It was a special reunion for everyone, even for Amalya who of course has no memory of those tense and life changing weeks ten years ago.

If you would like to consider creating a truly lasting legacy that reflects what was important to you during your lifetime by including CHEO in your estate plans and are interested in more information, please contact Megan Doyle Ray, Manager of Legacy Giving and Memorial Programs at 613-738-3694 or megandoyle@cheofoundation.com or by visiting www.cheofoundation.com/donate/legacy-giving.