Mighty Blog

Mary Kate’s amazing care inspires her family to give back

Paul and Maureen Marvin live in a small town in northern Minnesota near the border of Canada called Warroad. Paul, who was born and raised in Warroad, and Maureen are a busy couple raising their six children in the small town. The Marvins love being anywhere near water – whether that’s a lake to swim in or a frozen pond to play on.

A child born with Down syndrome and a heart defect

When Maureen was pregnant with her fifth child, she felt like she had the process and experience of having a baby under her belt. “I was very cavalier about things; I was ready to go in and do the same thing,” she said.

In Crosby, Minnesota, after Maureen gave birth to their new daughter Mary Kate, the care team said they suspected Paul and Maureen’s daughter had Down syndrome. After a few tests, they learned that Down syndrome wasn’t Mary Kate’s only diagnosis.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), approximately 50% of infants born with Down syndrome have a heart defect. And, it turned out, their daughter was born with atrioventricular canal defect, a type of heart defect.

Mary Kate in the hospital

Getting care from The Kid Experts™ at Children’s Minnesota

Maureen gave birth in a smaller hospital, so they left to get the expert care Mary Kate needed for her diagnoses. Paul and Maureen drove with their newborn straight to Children’s Minnesota in the middle of snow storm, three days before Christmas.

“The car ride was the hardest part until we could talk to someone at the Children’s Heart Clinic who could give us the information we needed,” Maureen said.

Mary Kate at home

It all felt like a lot for the parents of five kids. “It was a whirlwind of a diagnosis of Down syndrome and then a heart abnormality, it just became overwhelming,” Paul said. “But we remembered, these were the pros.”

The need for open-heart surgeries

Mary Kate’s care team told Paul and Maureen that once she grew a little bit, she would need open-heart surgery to help remedy her heart defect. So, the Marvins returned home with Mary Kate for a short three months while checking in with her care team at the Grand Forks, North Dakota, location of the Heart Clinic.

The drive to make these appointments was two hours and 20 minutes away – all in the middle of winter. “That’s what we had to do to get the care she needed,” Maureen said.

The care that made a difference

At almost 4 months old, Mary Kate returned for her first open-heart surgery. “We were looking forward to her getting well, not that it wasn’t hard to hand her over,” Maureen said. “But we had a lot of faith in her team.”

Mary Kate’s care team helped Paul and Maureen through the entire experience. They felt welcome to ask any question – no matter how ‘irrational’ or ‘silly’ – and felt they were met where they were – just two parents with a kid having heart surgery, they shared.

But one thing that stood out to Paul was the way they prepared his family for how Mary Kate would look after surgery. “They showed us that she would have a lot of tubes, and that’s normal,” he said. “I remember being grateful; it took my breath away the first time I saw her [after surgery] and so that was helpful to prepare us. I can’t imagine it the other way, not being prepared.”

Mary Kate today

When Mary Kate was 2 years old, she started to get sick again and had to have a second open-heart surgery. She recovered quickly and went home a few days later.

Mary Kate is now 10 years old and a 4th grader at her hometown elementary school. Her parents describe her as easy-going, super sweet and very social.

How the Marvin family gives back

Paul and Maureen have given back to Children’s Minnesota for many years, in many ways. When asked why, Paul said, “We’re grateful that this place exists with such an important mission.”

Paul spent six years on the Children’s Minnesota Board and knows people need Children’s Minnesota to help all kids throughout the region stay healthy. “People need a resource like Children’s Minnesota, they deserve Children’s Minnesota,” he said.

The Marvin family

December Give to Kids Day 2021

On Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, Children’s Minnesota will have our annual Give to Kids Day – 24 hours dedicated to raising funds for the most amazing people on Earth – kids! The Marvin family of Warroad has decided to provide a generous match of $10,000 in honor of Mary Kate and her care team, including her cardiologist, Dr. Rodrigo Rios, who recently retired.

This means, when you donate to Children’s Minnesota on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, the Marvins will match your donation dollar-for-dollar – doubling your impact! We are so grateful for people like the Marvin Family, and everyone who donates to help us continue to be The Kid Experts.