By Kimberly Houghton
Union Leader Correspondent
WHEN HOLLIS RESIDENT Lori Ankerud was just 3 years old, she was one of the first young children to have open-heart surgery ? an opportunity that now has allowed her to use her retirement years to help others with congenital heart defects.
“I really wanted to help other patients. I have always felt that there wasn’t enough help out there for these individuals,” said Ankerud.
In 2018, she launched the Heartfelt Dreams Foundation with her husband, Eric. The nonprofit charity provides families with transportation services to medical procedures, hotel accommodations across from hospitals and other emotional, educational and financial support.
It also works with cardiologists on educational programs and provides a network of support for families coping with congenital heart defects.
Lori Ankerud, now 62, was just a toddler when she had open-heart surgery to address Tetralogy of Fallot, a birth defect that resulted in four major defects of her heart.
She said it was a struggle for her parents during many of her procedures when they had no place to stay nearby, and the drives to and from the hospital were long and expensive.
She hopes that the Heartfelt Dreams Foundation will alleviate some of those extra worries and concerns for parents or spouses of patients.
“Lori is my hero. She has gone through all kinds of medical procedures, and she doesn’t complain,” said Eric Ankerud.
In 2015, Lori Ankerud again had to have surgery, but this time it was major heart reconstructive surgery to repair the hole and replace the valves and rebuild the right chamber of her heart.
“It was a nine-hour procedure where they basically rebuilt her heart,” said Eric Ankerud.
Two years later, the Ankeruds were determined to give back and help others who may be experiencing similar obstacles and challenges associated with congenital heart defects. Patients often struggle to find the right doctor to care for them, and there are stories about people being misdiagnosed, said Eric Ankerud.
Since its inception, the Heartfelt Dreams Foundation has assisted about 20 families with various needs. Working to improve the care and knowledge for treating CHD has become their mission, said the Anderuds, who have been married for 39 years.
The foundation also launched an academic nursing scholarship to help those in the medical field who are interested in cardiac care.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, congenital heart defects are conditions that are present at birth and can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works. This statement is included on the site: “They are the most common type of birth defect. As medical care and treatment have advanced, infants with congenital heart defects are living longer and healthier lives.
Many now are living into adulthood.”
Lori Ankerud agreed, saying open-heart surgeries are being performed on infants, and the medical advances are allowing these children to live long, prosperous lives.
The challenge, however, is that many individuals do not follow through with their medical care into adulthood, or that physicians may not fully understand how to treat these people once they are grown, she said.
The foundation also aims to provide medical education among the cardiologist community on some of these important topics, added Eric Ankerud.
For more information about the Heartfelt Dreams Foundation, or to make a donation, visit https://heartfeltdreamsfoundation. org/.