Kennedy Cherrington was born on 5th January 1999, unknown at the time with leaking valves in her left ventricle (mitral valves). At 3 years old, her parents took her to the doctor because they thought she had chickenpox and was extremely lethargic and a bit off. Her family GP listened to her heart and found that she had a murmur that was considered an “innocent murmur” and advised her parents to take her to a cardiologist.
Kennedy was seen by Dr. Lau at Westmead Children’s Hospital in 2001. He confirmed through an echocardiogram that she had a leaky valve that was only working at 50% capacity. In January 2007, just before her 8th birthday, she went for her yearly check-up and Dr. Lau told her parents that she would need surgery. In February 2007, she had surgery with Dr. Ian Nicholson pediatric heart surgeon at Westmead Children’s Hospital, Sydney.
Luckily for Kennedy, after that operation, she did not have any complications, and at age 10, she was cleared to play any sport. Kennedy chose to play Rugby League. Although there was a concern with her heart health when she was 16, she has still managed to go on to be a representative of football at a national and international level. She is, however, required to undertake echocardiograms every season.
Personally, her childhood experience hasn’t really affected her at all. She recalled that she has had a pretty good run since being cleared after surgery to plays sport. There have been some random times in her life where she had some anxiety about what life will be like when she is older. During her surgery procedure, her family endured a lot of stress and anxiety with the uncertainty of her making it through surgery as they had been told that there was a risk of her not making it.
The transition to adult was smooth with cardiologists’ appointments. She recalled the time when she relocated from Sydney to Perth in 2009 after her surgery then back to Sydney in 2018.
“It was a bit tricky finding a new cardiologist”
"Chasing up paperwork and surgery notes was a hassle, but all sorted now. No issues. My next cardiologist appointment is September 2021. I just recently have had another ECG before my NRL season in August for the Roosters, again no issues."
Pre-surgery I was restricted in physical activity as a young netballer back then. My lips were always purple during and after activity, I would also be exhausted post-exercise. I obviously didn’t have the energy like other kids my age.
Post-surgery I was limited to any physical activity for a period of time as my chest was still in trauma/pain. When I was cleared (age 10) I started playing rugby league and netball, I instantly felt the difference in participating in activities. I had more energy and “felt fitter”. I can’t explain the feeling but from then on I have been forever grateful for the doctors who saved me and gave me a second chance at life.
HeartKids provided Kennedy and her family with support during what was a stressful time. Keeping her entertained during her stay in hospital post-surgery and reassuring her that she was in the best place to recover, its the little things like that, that makes a difference.
Eight babies are born with a heart condition in Australia every day. Almost 3,000 every year. Kennedy is one of them. Sadly, CHD does not discriminate and it can happen to anyone.
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