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Gavin’s Got Heart: Raising awareness for congenital heart defects on Long Island

“I remember Gavin’s 20-week ultrasound like it was yesterday, and I wish I didn’t,” says Nicole Mogil. “The doctor drew two hearts on a piece of paper. She pointed and said, ‘This is a normal heart. This is Gavin’s heart.’ That was the last thing I heard.”

Gavin was diagnosed with multiple complex congenital heart defects.

Nicole was induced at 39 ½ weeks. “The doctors told me I wouldn’t even be able to hold my baby after he was born, but my husband, Greg, fought for me to have a few moments before they whisked him away. I got about 10 seconds. But I was so happy to have that.”

Six days later, Gavin faced seven hours of open heart surgery. And two weeks later, after his heart rhythm didn’t come back, Gavin needed another surgery to have a pacemaker implanted.

“We were in the hospital over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, 45 days in all,” says Nicole. “It felt like Groundhog Day every day, sitting in the same chair for 14 hours a day.”

Giving back by helping others

Gavin needed additional surgeries at ages two and five. He will likely need further surgeries as he grows. “We try not to think of that,” says Nicole.

Now a first-grader, Gavin is active in tennis and karate. “We are really just so lucky,” says Nicole. “We felt so indebted to everybody who gave us our son. We didn’t know how to pay it back other than to help people who are in the same position.”

Now a first-grader, Gavin is active in tennis and karate.

The nonprofit they started, Gavin’s Got Heart, provides financial support to parents of children with congenital heart defects (CHDs) — the most common birth defect in the U.S.

“Life doesn’t freeze because your baby is in the hospital,” says Nicole. “You still need to pay your bills. Parents often have to make the choice, do I care for my child right now or do I go to work?” Gavin’s Got Heart helps with bills, travel expenses or lost wages and offers critical emotional support. “We can help give parents meaningful time with their baby,” says Nicole.

Raising awareness of heart health in the community

The Mogils also wanted to have a broader community reach by raising awareness of CHDs.

The BEAT program initiated by Southside Hospital in nearby Bay Shore resonated with them. BEAT offers high school students screenings that illuminate their heart health — blood tests for cholesterol and blood glucose, electrocardiograms (EKGs) to spot heart abnormalities, body mass index (BMI) measurements and waist circumference checks. Students and their parents learn about congenital heart defects and how to care for their own healthy hearts. They’re taught hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

The Mogils.
quotation mark We are really just so lucky. We didn’t know how to pay it back other than to help people who are in the same position.
Nicole Mogil

“We were thinking of Gavin in years to come and how important it is for other students to be compassionate and aware of congenital heart defects and to know how to use the lifesaving strategies he and others may need,” says Nicole.

Gavin’s Got Heart has provided three $10,000 gifts to support the BEAT program. “Gavin’s Got Heart is an incredible organization,” says Barry Goldberg, MD, Southside director of Pediatric Cardiology, who runs the BEAT program. “From someone’s personal struggles, great outcomes resulted. If everybody in the world would respond to adversity like the Mogils did, the world would be a better place.”

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