Brian Byrne

A heart dads journey

Remembering his baby son’s cardiac arrest is still incredibly raw for Brian Byrne. He struggles to talk about it even though it’s been nearly two years. Only now is he realising how much of an effect it has had on him and his wife Leanne.


They were in the process of moving to New Zealand from Sydney when baby Evan was born. He was diagnosed with Congenital Aortic Stenosis, which means there is an obstruction to the flow of blood from the left ventricle into the aorta. Doctors told the couple to prepare for an operation when Evan reached 12 weeks, but a chest infection turned nearly fatal when Evan was just a month.  


Luckily for him, he was already in Sydney hospital when he turned blue and went into full cardiac arrest.


“It’s still shocking to think about it, but we were just so lucky there was a medical team on hand to bring him back to life.” 


Australian surgeons managed a temporary fix on Evan’s heart, and the family moved to New Zealand. Then began the three monthly monitoring of his condition, with the knowledge that Evan will need multiple surgeries throughout his life.


If you look at little Evan you’d have no idea he had a broken heart. He is a normal boisterous, active toddler, full of life and fun. But for Mum and Dad, they are in a constant state of anxiety.  


“Any time he gets sick, we are always second guessing whether it is his heart or just a normal illness. You have to balance protecting him, with trying to let him lead a normal life.”


That is where Heart Kids has been invaluable to the couple. “Having a network of people who live a similar existence to us and who have a heart child has been incredible. While I personally haven’t done a lot of talking or sharing at any of the Heart Kid events, I have got so much from listening to other people,” says Brian.


Brian also says through listening to others describing their feelings, he has been able to recognise aspects of his behaviour that he didn’t understand properly before.  


“It also gives a lot of comfort to know you are not the only person in the world going through what you’re going through, and there are others worse off. It puts everything in perspective.”