Brian and Francie Paul thought they were going to have a healthy baby. All the tests were normal.
But shortly after their first son, Joshua, was born in 2005, his breathing became labored and he started turning gray. He was rushed to Children’s Memorial Hospital, where he had the first of three open-heart surgeries to repair a previously undetected congenital heart defect that cannot be cured. One part of the complex problem is that Joshua’s heart has only three chambers.
Instead of getting angry or placing blame, the Pauls channeled their energy into raising money for under-funded, life-saving research on heart defects. They started an all-volunteer foundation out of their house—the Saving Tiny Hearts Society—to keep other families from going through similar ordeals as a result of heart defects, the number one birth defect in the country, which affects some 40,000 babies each year.
“What we are funding could save my son’s life and could save other kids’ lives,” says Brian, who works full-time as a general contractor and is now a father of three boys.
Since starting the foundation in August 2006, the Pauls have raised $435,000. The society has a nine-person board of directors and its annual gala draws more than 250 people. Brian and Francie, who left her job to manage the foundation full-time from home, assembled a medical advisory board that judges the research grant applications.
“It’s the concept of paying it forward,” Brian says. “My son would not be here if someone had not funded research in the past. It’s not about our child. We owe it to the families of the future and the unborn children.”
To learn more about the Saving Tiny Hearts Society or register for their gala on July 24 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, visit savingtinyhearts.org.