Sweethearts Day on February 14 to raise awareness of childhood heart disease

Three-year-old Florence Stade, of Harrison, was diagnosed with childhood heart disease at two days old.
Three-year-old Florence Stade, of Harrison, was diagnosed with childhood heart disease at two days old. Photo: Supplied

Three-year-old Florence Stade represents one of the eight babies born with a heart defect every day in Australia.

At two days old, the Harrison resident was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypoplasia, the incomplete development of lung tissue.

Four days after her birth she underwent her first in a series of operations and procedures which have ultimately left the "strong spirited, bright and determined" toddler suffering nightmares about hospital.

Three-year-old Florence Stade, of Harrison, was diagnosed with childhood heart disease at two days' old.
Three-year-old Florence Stade, of Harrison, was diagnosed with childhood heart disease at two days' old. Photo: supplied

Before her second birthday, Florence had undergone two open heart surgeries. The first in response to a cardiac arrest from a ruptured artery, and the second for the reconstruction of her right ventricular outflow tract.

Around the same time, she was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition Alagille Syndrome which affects the vital organs.

According to HeartKids, the charity supporting families of children with heart disease, Florence's prognosis is unclear due to the complexity and rarity of her condition.

In the lead up to Sweetheart Day, February 14, the Florence's family is sharing their story to help raise awareness and money for the charity which supports families going through similar experiences.

Elise and Christopher Stade and Florence's sibling Tobias have benefited from the charity in more ways than one.

"HeartKids has provided an opportunity to connect with other families who truly understand what this rollercoaster feels like," the Stade family said in a statement.

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"There are simply no words to describe the heart-wrenching moment you hand your child over for lifesaving surgery, and to be around people who 'get it' is essential for coping."

The family said the charity had also helped them financially, particularly with services to help Florence manage her trauma.

HeartKids is calling for the community to participate in Sweetheart Day but hosting an afternoon tea on Valentines Day to raise money.

All donated funds go towards helping HeartKids provide ongoing support for children with heart defects and their families all across Australia, as well fund life-saving research into childhood heart disease.

Find out more about Sweetheart Day or childhood heart disease here.