When they learned about the impending surgery for a co-worker’s 15-month-old daughter, Discovery at Kirkmere teachers and administrators decided to help.
Lyla Freeman, the daughter of Corissa Freeman, a seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher, is scheduled for her second open-heart surgery in March.
“Lyla, for the most part, looks and acts like a typical 1-year-old,” her mom said. “However, she tires easily due to low oxygen levels. A regular 1-year-old can go and go and go. Lyla has to take frequent breaks and tires easily. Crawling for an extended period of time is like running a marathon.”
She was born with a congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot. In next month’s operation, doctors will stop Lyla’s heart and put her on bypass before repairing two holes in her heart and then patching the holes and her tiny pulmonary arteries. The surgery is expected to last eight hours.
Because of Lyla’s condition, she cannot be around other children. A simple cold could kill her.
Freeman’s co-workers and school administrators developed a plan to ease some of the family’s financial difficulties.
“After having a conversation with Corissa in my office one day, several colleagues and I decided to ask our administrators if we could help out,” said Julie Clark, a literacy coach at the school. “As a group we decided to hold several in-house fundraisers – pencils, suckers and hearts.”
Up next, a “Have a Heart Dance” is planned for 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday for middle-school students and from 2 to 3 p.m. for elementary students. Refreshments will be sold, and all proceeds will go to the Freeman family.
Kirkmere houses students in third through eighth grades.
Music will be provided by D.J. Victory of VSUP Records.
A GoFundMe account also has been set up for the family at https://www.gofundme.com/lylas-medical-expense-fund.
The little patient already has undergone heart catheterizations and one open-heart surgery.
Their daughter’s illness has been difficult on Freeman and her husband, Mark – not only emotionally but financially, too.
Mark is a full-time student, so Corissa provides the Austintown family’s only income.
“Financially, we were doing pretty good, until we found out about this surgery,” Corissa said. “We thought maybe her last open-heart surgery would have bought us enough time to get to the summer, but Lyla is making remarkable growths physically, [and] her shunt surgery isn’t going to last until summer. When we go up to Akron, we struggle with the gas, parking and paying for meals. I will also be on [family medical leave] and have very little sick days remaining.”
But the couple is staying strong, and Corissa says Lyla is the couple’s little miracle.
“We have been so blessed to have her in our lives.”