Lung research is giving children better odds of survival

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Kara Hamm, 2, was born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia and underwent a life-saving surgery.

Kara Hamm — now two-years-old — was born with a hole in her diaphragm, the muscle that separates the lungs from the abdomen.

This hole interfered in the diaphragm’s crucial role of helping the lungs to inflate for breathing. It also allowed Kara’s internal organs to shift upwards and push aside her already abnormally developed lungs.

“As a pediatric surgeon, I’ve operated on many babies like Kara,” said Dr. Richard Keijzer, a pediatric surgeon-scientist at the University of Manitoba. “It’s heartbreaking to know that as many as 10 to 20 per cent of these precious won’t survive. Others may have lung complications and struggle to breathe throughout their lives.”

Keijzer says Kara, and other babies born like her, inspire him to begin his research on congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). The Lung Association, with its amazing supporters, have helped fund this much needed research.

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Dr. Richard Keijzer, Pediatric Surgeon-Scientist, University of Manitoba

Thanks to The Lung Association’s supporters, Keijzer’s says his research has “propelled forward in amazing directions” and “now is the time for your support.”

With about 150 children born worldwide with CDH every day, it’s almost as common as cyctic fibrosis.

“We knew that Kara would be born with this illness because it showed up on ultrasounds during her mother’s pregnancy,” said Keijzer in a personal letter to supporters of The Lung Association. “We also know she’d be born with serious complications, like pulmonary hypertension, and would need ventilators to breathe.

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“After her birth, it was several days before Kara stabilized and we were able to operate to close the hole. Her parents, Holly and Cody, didn’t even know if they’d get to bring Kara home because CDH has claimed more than 300,000 lives since the year 2000.

Now, as Keijzer points out, if researchers can learn how this abnormal lung development happens, there would be no need for doctors to perform complicated surgeries on vulnerable babies. That is exactly what Keijzer is researching.

“The more we understand about this disease, the better targeted therapies we can develop to treat it,” said Keijzer.

Your support is important. One in five Albertans live with a lung disease such as asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The annual burden of lung disease is $12 billion in Canada. Without answers, it’s predicted that figure could double by 2030. Research can help this trend.

Please continue to support this work so we can find new treatments and cures for those living with lung disease. Then we can all breathe easier.

For more information on how your donations help with research, give us a call at 1-888-566-5864.

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