When Brent and April Worley of Conway took their daughter, 7-year-old Savannah, to her yearly checkup they weren’t expecting to hear that their little girl had a heart murmur.
“At the time, they didn’t think anything of it because they just thought it was an innocent murmur,” Brent said of the medical staff.
In December 2016, they listened to it again.
Brent said the doctors thought there might be something wrong, but wanted to hold off any echo-cardiograms or similar medical procedures.
It was around late January, early February when Brent said they started noticing symptoms like Savannah getting tired easily and getting winded doing stuff that a normal kid would have no problem doing.
“At that point, April’s mama bear instincts kicked in and said: ‘No, something is wrong; let’s go get this checked out’ and we went back to our local pediatrician and they referred us to [Arkansas] Children’s [Hospital],” he said.
There, they were told that Savannah had a heart condition known as Atrial Septal Defect.
“Essentially, it’s a hole in the wall that separates the two atrial chambers of the upper heart and what that causes is [some] amount of blood as the heart is pumping to go to from the oxygenated side back into the unoxidated side,” Brent said. “[It] just makes the heart work ineffectively and makes it work harder than it should.”
The doctor said his team had two options which were to implant a heart catheter or open her up, but they wouldn’t know what would be best for Savannah until his team discussed it.
“When we left Children’s that day, we really didn’t have answers,” April said.”On that way home from Children’s you can imagine what a 7-year-old would have to ask after that kind of appointment. She was just talking non-stop.”
April said she and Brent realized they needed to come up with a way to distract Savannah.
Within a week, April said the hospital called and said Savannah was a candidate for the implant.
While the doctor advised the Worleys that she needed to have it done by age 10, April said they both were tired of seeing their child exhausted and tired from the heart problem and scheduled the surgery for May 19.
Savannah ended up asking April if she could paint her nails purple — Savannah’s favorite color — the night before the surgery, which ultimately gave April an idea.
She said she posted on her personal Facebook account asking if anyone would want to paint their nails purple too.
“Within an hour, there were so many responses,” April said.
From there, she said she came up with the idea to create the “Paint Purple for Savannah” Facebook page.
“So that’s why I created the Paint Purple for Savannah [Facebook page] was more of wanting to give her something to look forward to and ask a question about instead of [the questions] about surgery and all that goes with that,” April said. “It’s just been a really good outlet for her.”
She said people from all around the U.S. have been posting photos of their purple nails on the page.
Brent said in addition to the page, people around the community have been amazing and have checked in on them, prayed for them and brought food.
“It’s hard to walk through things alone and knowing we don’t have to is quite incredible,” he said.
April said something else cool that happened was the gift that Savannah received from the University of Central Arkansas Bears football team and quarterback Breylin Smith.
April once held a long-term subbing position at Conway High School, which is how she knew Smith.
“I didn’t even ask him … this is something that he did on his own,” she said. “He knows how much our family is involved at UCA.”
April said Smith texted her one day and said he had a gift which turned out to be an autographed football from all the team members and Smith said it was just something small that they could do in honor of Savannah and what she is going through.
Having so many people reach out and support her daughter, she said, has been great.
“It’s just nice to know that so many people love Savannah,” April said. “Seeing the likes and people posting … it’s made her feel special. [It let her know that] she’s not doing this alone, that she has other people there for her.”
Jenni Roberts said her two daughters painted their nails purple for Savannah too.
“They were so excited when I showed them the Facebook page and asked them if they wanted to participate,” she said. “I thought it was a great opportunity to show Savannah a visible reminder that all of her friends are praying for her and her procedure on Friday. We love the Worley family.”
Brent posted to his Facebook page on Friday and said that Savannah was out of the procedure.
“It was successful with the preferred device to do the closure,” he wrote. “She is awake, eating a Popsicle, and asking a lot of questions.”
Brent said that he and April would never be able to say thank you enough to those who stopped by.
“To be honest, even knowing God had this, it was hard turning my daughter over to someone, virtual strangers, to fix something as intricate as her heart,” he wrote. “Having everyone in prayer and agreement strengthened us and helped us get through today. Thank you all.”
Overall, the Worleys said Savannah would have a down-time of around two weeks, but from here on out, the problem should be fixed.