19 June 2023

Shellharbour toddler shows extraordinary strength after three heart surgeries but the battle is not over yet

| Keeli Royle
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Quinn Briggs in superhero costume for Hero 4 HeartKids

Quinn Riggs celebrates Hero 4 HeartKids. Photos: Supplied/HeartKids.

One-year-old Quinn Riggs has overcome more challenges than most people experience in a lifetime.

She has been battling heart defects since birth, already undergone three open heart surgeries and spent most of her life in hospital.

But despite her situation, Quinn’s mum Amanda Docwra said her daughter was a cheerful little girl with a big personality.

“She’s still very happy and bubbly and doesn’t let what’s happening get her down,” Amanda said.

Quinn is one of the first children in Australia to complete a rare treatment to help make her eligible for the new heart she desperately needs.

Before she was born Quinn was diagnosed with a hole in between the bottom chambers of her heart and she was rushed into her first open heart surgery at just one week old.

“It was pretty traumatic,” Amanda said. “We went home with a healthy baby, not knowing the extent of everything.

“We thought she had a hole and it turned out to be much worse.”

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But that was only the start.

“It was just complication after complication,” Amanda said.

While Quinn was recovering, doctors discovered there was a narrowing of the valve between her left chamber and just months later she returned to the operating table.

“We hoped it would grow with her and she’d be fine,” Amanda said.

But it didn’t, and after just another month Quinn started showing signs of heart failure and underwent another surgery to replace the valve.

She is now in end stage heart failure and has been unable to leave the hospital.

“Out of her 20 months, she’s only been home about four,” Amanda said.

“She wouldn’t know what home is anymore.”

Quinn Riggs smiling in hospital cot.

Quinn Riggs had three open heart surgeries before she turned one.

Quinn needs a heart transplant but was not eligible due to a high antibody count which means she would likely reject the new organ.

A new treatment offered fresh hope, but is rarely used in Australia.

“It took three or four months just to get approval,” Amanda said.

The red tape was finally removed at the beginning of February and Quinn became the second cardiac kid in the country to receive desensitisation treatment to lower her antibody count.

Now it’s a waiting game to see if it worked.

“It takes about three to four weeks to get the results,” Amanda said. “Once those results come back we’ll be put forward with discussion again to see if she will get listed.”

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The family are holding onto hope, but after 12 months straight in hospital the situation has taken a massive emotional toll.

Organisations such as Ronald McDonald House, i98 Illawarra Convoy and HeartKids have helped ease some of the burden.

“HeartKids have been great with the mental support,” Amanda said. “They come into the ward every week.”

These organisations also help to connect families with others who understand what they’re going through.

“It’s a huge community where you’ve got a support network of everyone that has been in similar situations.”

One-year-old Quinn Riggs

Quinn Riggs was one of the first Australian kids to undergo new treatment.

That community continues to grow, with eight children born with a heart defect every day.

And HeartKids is raising funds and awareness by celebrating these families as the real heroes who go through impossible battles every day.

They’re encouraging sporting clubs, schools, workplaces and the broader community to get involved and dress up for Hero 4 Heartkids this month to help children like Quinn win their battles.

To donate or fundraise visit the Hero 4 HeartKids website.

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