Disclaimer, y’all – this post is more on the serious side. Many will be celebrating love this month, but Jackalope wants to bring light to families that spend February focussed on a different matter. February is Congenital Heart Defect awareness month – an issue that hits close to home for a part of our Jackalope family. Sarah Engle has been with Jackalope for roughly 3 years, and in 2013, before her Jackalope journey began, her life took a heart-wrenching turn.
In 2012, Sarah and her former husband decided to add to their family of 6, but this time by adoption. They did their research and soon received the file on a baby from China named Li Xinpei, lovingly nicknamed Pei Pei by her orphanage nannies. Their instant love for her drove them to move forward with the adoption, and their new baby gained the name Peili Jane after being adopted by her new family. Sarah and her husband were, prior to adoption, aware of Peili’s heart condition and previous open-heart surgery, and they were open to the challenges if it meant a life with Peili in it. Although they were privy to this complication, Sarah says, “Nothing would or could have prepared me for this new life.” During the first week in her new home, Peili Jane began speaking English, walking on her own, forming a special bond with her four older brothers, and somehow managed to fit in numerous doctor’s visits AND an ER visit. A busy lady, that Peili!
On April 17th, the family, anxious but optimistic, checked into Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt for Peili’s next open-heart surgery. Frequently updated by Peili’s doctor, the family eventually got the news that there had been complications, and a surgery that normally takes 6-8 hours took 20. Peili and her family experienced good days and scary days over the next month until she was finally well enough to go home on May 13th. “When we pulled into our garage,” Sarah reflects, “she seemed relieved to be home.”
The next day, the family’s worst nightmares unfolded, as Peili’s heart had failed unexpectedly. On May 15th, they laid their sweet Peili Jane to rest. With Peili in her heart, Sarah states, “Even though the time with her was nowhere near long enough for us, I am so happy she had a family, and many, many people who loved her dearly.”
In memory of her late daughter, Peili Jane, Sarah chose a nonprofit for this month whose focus is on “congenital heart defect and organ donation awareness” – World of Broken Hearts. CHD is the most common birth defect, yielding the morose statistic that 1 in 100 babies born in the United States each year are born with a congenital heart defect. Further, 6,000 children a year die from CHD, tripling the amount of deaths due to all childhood cancers combined. Of course, no illness trumps another, yet CHD is grossly underfunded and largely unrecognized. World of Broken Hearts, founded by Suha Dabit, aims to raise awareness of and funding for CHD through photography and telling the stories of sweet babies such as Peili who lost their fight too early.
This month, each pint of Snowman Stout will go toward funding for CHD through World of Broken Hearts. Hundreds of hearts break each year due to losses against CHD, and we want to do our part to help families like Sarah’s, and other families who have their own Sarah and Peili. Cheers, and love all around!