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Jeweler Finds A Gem In Chkd, Works To Return Favor

Published: November 16, 2000
Section:VIRGINIA BEACH BEACON, page 03
Source: PAULA CROOKS
Correspondent
© 2000- Landmark Communications Inc.

OCEANFRONT – Glasses were raised in toasts, music filled the air and employees and friends of David Nygaard celebrated another successful year in the jewelry business Nov. 4. But this party was more than an anniversary.

It was also a personal celebration of Nygaard's youngest son's triumph over congenital heart disease and the official kickoff of his "Give Our Heart Away" fund-raiser for Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters, the hospital that helped save his son's life. When Nathaniel Nygaard, Jan and David Nygaard's fourth son, was born April 24, he appeared to be a normal baby. The Alanton family's ordeal began eight days later, when Jan took him to the doctor for a routine weight check. Although Nathaniel seemed healthy, pediatrician and family friend Dr. Chris Wrubel was concerned.

"I had a strong feeling that something was terribly wrong with his heart," Wrubel said, and he recommended that the Nygaards take the baby immediately to CHKD for an echocardiogram.

With virtually no outward symptoms, cardiologists at CHKD thought it unlikely they would find anything wrong with the baby, but the procedure confirmed Wrubel's intuition. Nathaniel had critical coarctation of the aorta in which the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the body is constricted. The condition is always fatal without medical intervention.

Doctors at CHKD immediately performed closed heart surgery to expand Nathaniel's aorta, and the outlook seemed good. But in August, doctors noticed a recurrence of the condition and performed a balloon angioplasty on the 4-month-old's aorta, which had reconstricted to a fraction of its healthy width.

After the ballooning, Jan contacted her childhood pediatrician, former surgeon general Dr. C. Everett Koop, who recommended that Nathaniel have a second surgery in Philadelphia to attempt to expand his aorta permanently. Doctors at CHKD concurred and referred Nathaniel to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The surgery, performed in October, was a success, and although he will require long-term follow-up care, Nathaniel now has a 95 percent chance that he will never need another operation. His father describes him as a "happy, easy-going baby, a real trooper" who always has a smile for his big brothers Eric, 5; Calvin, 4; and Lance, 2.

David and Jan credit Wrubel and the medical team at CHKD with saving Nathaniel's life. As for Wrubel's initial intuition about the child's health, some might characterize it as a miracle. Wrubel prefers the term "miraculous intervention" to describe what he experienced.

David Nygaard has his own theory: "I believe that he had a gift of knowledge and that God gave him that gift."

And of the care they received at CHKD, Jan Nygaard said: "they have given us a life. We can't begin to give back to them what they have given to us."

The Give Our Heart Away fund-raiser arose from that gratitude. The Nygaards' goal is to raise $10,000 for a new EKG machine through the sales of custom-designed diamond heart pendants. The white gold pendant sells for $350, of which $100 will go to CHKD. Nygaard, whose jewelry store is on Laskin Road, just east of First Colonial Road, also created a larger version of the pendant, worth $5,000 with a close-to-1-carat diamond, that he plans to raffle. Raffle tickets are $100 each. So far, the Nygaards have raised about $4,900.

The CHKD staff is grateful for the fund-raising and for the increased awareness of what the hospital does.

"The Nygaards are very special to us," said Carolyn Dudley, the hospital's development officer. "They are helping us put the word out in the community about what we're all about. Without this kind of support, we wouldn't be able to provide the level of care we do.

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