How 4 days at The Hospital for Sick Children changed one photographer's life. And is transforming how other SickKids families remember their journey.
The last thing a family rushing off to SickKids is thinking about is grabbing a camera to take photos. But that's exactly what I did on March 7th, 2018 when I frantically packed after a cardiologist called to say I needed to get my son to the hospital within the hour.
My life-changing stay at SickKids when my newborn son, Jack, was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease (CHD) was short and relatively straightforward compared to many other families on the cardiac floor. At two-and-a-half weeks old, my son was diagnosed with SVT, a heart disease that is manageable with medication. One in three babies grows out of it. If he doesn't, there is the possibility of surgery or continuing medication. My son basically has what I call a "Mighty Heart" that is supercharged and can run into a race condition that spikes his heart rate.
It all started with Jack's admission to The Hospital for Sick Children in March of this year and as scary as it is was, I knew I needed photos of the three of us. I needed this important time in our lives preserved. What if for some reason Jack didn't survive? I wouldn't have any professional photos of the three of us.
This is Jack's story as much as it is ours and he deserves to have this part of his story captured for his future self. I knew I could create something meaningful for these other families. The idea was sparked while my husband Dave and I were sitting beside Jack’s bed late at night at SickKids.
Project Mighty Hearts provides free photo sessions to Heart Families fighting
battles at SickKids and at home. I hope to grow Project Mighty Hearts beyond SickKids Families by adding ambassadors, recruiting more help, accessing more hospitals and impacting more families.
I had no idea that 1 in 100 babies are born with CHD and that it is the most common form of birth defect. I knew I could heal my pain by taking action. And I thought that if having these photos would help me, maybe it could help all of these other families affected by CHD.
It's been almost 7 months since those 4 days at SickKids. Some days it feels like I blinked and other days it feels like a lifetime. From what I've heard, that's what parenthood always feels like. But there's been this extra layer sprinkled on top called CHD. Extra anxiety, lack of sleep, nightmares and fear all surrounding his CHD. Things will be going well and then something will trigger a realization that we aren’t “out of the woods” so to speak. I feel like I will be constantly managing how I react to his CHD and fortunately early on I decided to create something meaningful from this experience.
These Heart Families will receive so much more than just photos. They will have conversation starters, tools to help them teach their kids about their CHD, and memories that created their Heart Warriors story. They will receive the same joy, happiness, excitement and love my heart healthy family clients have when they open their photo gallery.
I believe that in a world of over-staged, over-posted, manufactured truth it’s about having the confidence to be undeniably yourself and to never have to disguise who you are. I provide an honest and original family photography experience to all of my clients, heart family or not.
To get involved as an ambassador or to gift a session to a Heart Family, please visit:
If you are a heart family interested in a Heart Family session, you can apply here: www.projectmightyhearts.com/apply, and if you are a Heart Healthy Family and want to book your own session that will provide a Heart Family with one, please visit: www.jenallison.ca
To learn more about my story with Jack and my husband Dave, visit www.projectmightyhearts.com
ABOUT JEN ALLISON
Professional Photographer Jen Allison’s life was turned upside down when her two-and-a-half week old son was diagnosed with SVT (supraventricular tachycardia), a heart disease that is manageable with medication.One in three babies grows out of it. If he doesn’t, there is the possibility of surgery or continuing medication. Her son basically has what she calls a “Mighty Heart” that is supercharged and can run into a race condition that spikes his heart rate.
The first few weeks of motherhood further strengthened her belief in the importance of documenting real and authentic moments of family life. The reality of life is that it’s not planned. Things can go “off-course” and that’s what makes it so amazing and incredible.
“I was inspired to create a photography project documenting the journey of heart families after a life-changing stay at Sick Kids from my own personal experience. I wanted to give the gift of preserving memories to these families who may never get family photos done. Project Mighty Hearts is about capturing the whole journey, not just the 'good' moments in life.”
- Jen Allison