During a difficult time for Conway Heupel and his family, the community has stepped in to help.
By RACHEL BOCK
New England Music Teacher Conway Heupel and his family received some difficult news in October, something no parent should ever have to hear about their child. There was a problem with her heart.
The Heupels’ two year old daughter Bridgette Rae was born on Oct. 8, 2014 with a hole in her heart. The condition was being monitored at yearly checkups, and during her yearly checkup in 2015 the doctor decided that her condition needed a little more time and that the hole would close on its own. However, at that appointment the did doctor noticed that her right side of her heart was enlarged, and would need to be monitored.
During this year’s routine checkup in Bismarck this past October, the doctor was right, and little Bridgette’s hole did indeed just need some more time, and the hole had closed on its own. But, the doctors found a fourth valve leading into the right side of Bridgette’s heart. The extra valve is what is causing the enlargement on little Bridgette’s heart because she is getting more blood than what she needs to have on the right side. The doctor also found a third hole in the back top part of her heart and some of the extra blood is seeping through.
Their normal two-year old girl, who shows no signs of having a heart condition, will be undergoing extensive open heart surgery to fix the hole and reposition that extra valve to the left side of her heart. Little Bridgette, along with her mom and dad will be traveling to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn. for her open heart surgery, which is scheduled for Nov. 28.
“They [the doctors] are very optimistic about it, and we are too. But there is always that thought in the back of your mind, it is your heart and she is only two years old,” Conway said.
Since the students and staff at New England School consider themselves one big Tiger family, everyone at the school is rallying around the much-loved music teacher and his family. The National Honor Society students are raising money with pajama days during month of December for all the students and staff at the school. The Honor Society also had a bake raffle on Nov. 22.
A group of staff members started a t-shirt website fundraiser to help defray some of the medical costs. If anyone is interested in ordering a t-shirt that says “Our Hearts Beat for Bridgette Rae,” you can go online at www.booster.com/bridgetterae to order a shirt, or to make a donation.
The music teacher, who is in his ninth year teaching in New England, is extremely humbled by all the support that he is receiving during this difficult time. The only thing that he is asking is for everyone to keeps Bridgette and his family in their thoughts and prayers for a successful surgery and a healthy recovery.
“That is all I would ever ask for is to just keep her close in your thoughts,” Conway said. “She is my little girl.”