Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Poppy Smith celebrates her second birthday, having survived a heart defect

She has hypoplastic left heart syndrome and Benalla residents have rallied to raise money to pay for Poppy's ongoing surgical treatment.

MONIQUE FREER August 20, 2014 3:30am

Poppy Smith, who caught the attention of the community after the Ensign featured a story about her heart defect last year, turned two this month.

The Smith family’s home is strewn with birthday cards from people they have never met.

Birthday cards for two-year-old Poppy arrived in early August from across the district and overseas, celebrating a milestone her Benalla parents Amelia and Matthew were not sure she would make it to.

Poppy has hypoplastic left heart syndrome which means the left side of her heart did not develop. Her left ventrical and aorta are very small and without surgical intervention during her first week of life, there would have been a slim chance of her survival.

The Ensign featured Poppy and her family in August last year, and when local man John O’Loughlin read their story he wanted to help.

Mr O’Loughlin said he would donate $100 to the Smith family and challenged 20 others to do the same.

He said if $2000 was raised by August 31, he would donate a further $100.

Little did he know the community would rally to raise $8295 for the family.

‘‘We hadn’t ever expected anything and we were happy just to meet with (The Ensign) and talk about Poppy and raise some awareness about kids born with heart defects,’’ Amelia said.

‘‘We read about John and couldn’t believe that someone that we didn’t know could be so generous.

‘‘Sometimes we might feel that we’re in this alone, but there are a lot of people around who care and who care about Poppy and who are interested in how she’s going.’’

Amelia and Matthew found out about their child’s disorder at their 20-week pregnancy scan.

When Poppy was born on August 7 she was whisked away to have her first heart surgery at 37 hours old.

‘‘When she was born we didn’t know whether we were going to get two hours, two days, two months, two years; we just had to take what we got,’’ Matthew said.

Since birth Poppy has had two open heart surgeries and her parents expect she will require another before the age of six.

Poppy celebrated her second birthday with a party earlier this month and on August 9 the Smith family recognised her ‘Heart Day’ — the anniversary of her first open-heart surgery.

‘‘It’s an emotional day that it’s her birthday and that brings back a lot of memories, but then two days later you have her heart day, which can be a bit rough,’’ Amelia said.

‘‘Matthew always says that on the seventh of August I gave birth to Poppy and on the ninth of August, Poppy’s cardiac surgeon gave her life, because she wouldn’t have lived without the surgery.’’

Amelia runs her own jewellery and accessories business and fans of her Facebook page were keen to send birthday cards to celebrate the occasion.

Patrons at Rustik Cafe and Wine Bar also got into the birthday spirit, putting cards in ‘Poppy’s Mailbox’ that was set up especially for the cause.

An intelligent girl, Poppy is full of life and happily chats away. Although her parents joke that she sounds like ‘‘a 60-year-old with emphysema’’ because she gets out of breath easily, she loves running around like every child does.

She adores Dora the Explorer and is quick to count or wish her friends farewell in Spanish.

Although her bill of health has been good in the past year, the aortic arch that was repaired during surgery is not holding up as expected and will likely need to be repaired during additional surgery.

‘‘We really try to not focus on the fact that today could be her last day,’’ Amelia said.

‘‘It’s difficult thinking about it and we try not to but it’s an indisputable fact that her heart could just pack it in.

‘‘We are so lucky that she is doing so well — and it could have been so much worse.’’

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