Grateful patient Lori Ankerud, and her husband, Eric, created the Heartfelt Dreams Foundation to help others with congenital heart disease.

In 1958, Lori Ankerud of Springville, NY, was born with a rare condition called tetralogy of Fallot caused by a combination of four heart defects. Her newborn skin had a bluish tinge from oxygen-poor blood flowing out of the heart to the rest of the body.

Before Lori was two, she underwent a Blalock Taussig shunt, a surgical procedure that helped improve blood flow to her lungs. Before she turned three, she was one of the early patients in the U.S. to undergo open heart surgery to stabilize oxygen levels, improve blood flow and help her heart grow normally. Then at 11, Lori underwent cardiac catheterization — a procedure to examine how well her heart was working – and kept up annual cardiology visits for the rest of her teenage years.

Lori and Rick Ankerud
Lori and Rick Ankerud

Not Yet in the Clear

Fast forward to adulthood. Lori was living a healthy life with her husband, Eric, and their two children in New England. She received specialized care for her heart from Massachusetts General Hospital. And for 15 years, she had no problems. In 2015, she developed a common complication associated with her childhood heart defect surgery; a leaky valve, causing one of her heart’s pumping chambers to enlarge. She also experienced fluid retention, fatigue and arrhythmias.

Lori underwent major heart reconstructive surgery at Mass General to rebuild the right chamber of her heart. The surgery was a success and after six months of cardiac rehabilitation, Lori was feeling great. Five years later, Lori continues to do exceptionally well and is a talented artist, quiltmaker, gardener, and an avid sports fan.

Over the past few decades, diagnosing and treating the tetralogy of Fallot has substantially improved.

Kindness of Heart

Over the past few decades, diagnosing and treating the tetralogy of Fallot has substantially improved. Recognizing this progress, and the superior care that she received, Lori felt strongly about supporting others with congenital heart defects. She and Eric established the Heartfelt Dreams Foundation, Ltd., a non-profit charitable organization, which aims to “provide emotional, educational, and financial support to families with children born with tetralogy of Fallot and other congenital heart defects, and the medical professionals who care for these patients.”

Support for Cardiac Programs, Practitioners, Patients

The Heartfelt Dreams Foundation supports Mass General’s cardiology department and cardiac nurses pursuing higher education or engaging in projects to enhance practice, education, research or service to the community.

Theresa Gallivan, RN, MS, NEA-BC
Theresa Gallivan, RN, MS, NEA-BC

“Lori, Eric, and the Heartfelt Dreams Foundation support professional development and the advancement of specialized knowledge and expertise in cardiac nursing,” says Theresa Gallivan, RN, MS, NEA-BC, associate chief nurse for Medicine and Heart Center Nursing. “That support ultimately ensures that the Mass General Heart Center continues to maintain its reputation for highest quality, patient and family centered care. We could not be more grateful.”

The Heartfelt Dreams Foundation also supports cardiac educational initiatives and underwrites travel expenses for patients who need specialized, expert care at Mass General. In September alone, the foundation helped make it possible for four patients to visit Mass General for advanced Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) care, procedures that could not be done in their local hospitals.

DeFaria Yeh, MD, the associate director of the ACHD program, states, “These procedures are incredibly important to the patients’ long-term health. I am so enormously grateful to Lori, Eric and Heartfelt Dreams Foundation. Their support is making a major impact on people’s lives.”

“We could not be more appreciative of everyone at Mass General for the extraordinary care we’ve received from the physicians, nurses, and staff.”

Grateful for World-Class Care

Fueled by their own experiences and desire to help others, Lori and Eric continue to grow the Heartfelt Dreams Foundation. “We could not be more appreciative of everyone at Mass General for the extraordinary care we’ve received from the physicians, nurses, and staff,” says Lori. “Eric and I are committed to giving back to those who have given so much to us and to provide opportunities for other patients to receive the world-class care Mass General provides.”

Currently, they are holding a multi-month virtual 5K run/walk/skate/roll fundraiser, and members of Mass General’s cardiology department have put together several teams to support a cause close to their hearts.

To make learn more about Mass General’s partnership with the Heartfelt Dreams Foundation, please contact us.