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3/22/11news article

local girl jumps for heart health

Five years ago Lara Bair, of Troy, was devastated that her 2-year-old daughter Mirella had to watch her new baby sister, Mikayla, spend her first month in Dayton Children’s Regional Level III Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) because of heart issues. Today, 5-year-old Mikayla is healthier than ever, which has Mirella jumping for more than joy: she’s jumping for a cause.

Mirella, now 7 years old, received information at school on the Jump Rope for Heart Program, where she could raise money for the American Heart Association in honor of someone with a heart condition. Having seen Mikayla as well as her cousin and grandfather all suffer from heart problems, Mirella was eager to do her part to help the family.

“She came home from school and was so excited because with the program you can cut out a heart and write the name of the person you’re thinking about while you’re jumping,” says Lara. “She decided to write the names of my dad, her cousin and Mikayla on the hearts. She hopes to raise $100 in honor of them because she is so thankful for their health.”

Even though she could only sit in the NICU waiting room while Mikayla was being cared for, Mirella was concerned because she understood the severity of her condition. Shortly after Mikayla was born at Kettering Medical Center, she developed aspiration pneumonia and heart problems. She was immediately transported to Dayton Children’s where she was on a ventilator for the first month of her life.

“Initially we were scared to death because we didn’t know if Mikayla would live or die,” says Lara. “Leaving our 1-month-old daughter in the hospital was hard for us and we would call every night to check on her, but the staff at Dayton Children’s was wonderful. They talked to us and explained everything, and we couldn’t have asked for better care. There’s no doubt they saved her life.”

At Dayton Children’s, ensuring families stay informed is a top priority. Doctors and nurses make sure children are cared for adequately to make this stressful situation much easier on parents and siblings.

“We all have families ourselves and realize how hard this can be on family members, so we try to ease their worries,” says Michael Ralston, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Dayton Children’s. “No matter what we can’t alleviate worries completely but we keep families informed by having doctors talk to families once a day and nurses updating families on a shift-wise basis or whenever there’s a change, and families can call whenever they feel because we all want to help comfort them.”

For Mirella, jumping is one way to give back and show her thankfulness that her grandpa, who has had major heart problems including a recent heart attack, her cousin who was born with a heart defect and had his first heart surgery at age 2, as well as her baby sister are all alive and healthy. And since Mirella is a jump rope pro to begin with, she feels more than ready to get started.

“I jump rope a lot, I enjoy it and practice at school, especially at recess with my friends,” says Mirella. “I’m jumping for grandpa and my cousin, and my sister because she’s one of my best friends. I’m excited because I get to have fun and I get to help people with heart problems.”

According to Dr. Ralston, one out of every hundred child born has a heart problem and about 50 percent of these heart problems are serious. With such high numbers it’s extremely important for people like Mirella to help out with programs such as the Jump Rope for Heart Program to raise money for the American Heart Association. To sign your child up, go to

Joining the program will not only help patients with heart problems worldwide, but will also help your little one get started on an exercise plan to help their heart stay healthy.

“Jump rope is a great exercise for a good cardiovascular system,” Ralston says. “Starting your child early on developing healthy habits such as jump rope and exercise will help them stick with fitness as they get older which is always important for a lifetime of good health.”

For more information, contact: 
Marketing Communications Department 
Phone: 937-641-3666

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Michael Ralston, MD

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