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Xavier Magazine | June 26, 2017

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Profile: Megan Van Pelt

Profile: Megan Van Pelt
By France Griggs Sloat

Megan Van Pelt Bachelor of Science in management, 1994 | Director of human resources, Lendlease Corp., Chicago; Children’s Heart Foundation President’s Council member

Trump Card |Van Pelt oversees personnel issues for an Australian company that manages large-scale construction projects including Donald Trump’s buildings in New York and Chicago.

Setback | She’s also handled traumatic personal issues, namely, the birth of her son, Jack, seven years ago. Midway through her pregnancy, Jack was diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries. His aortic and pulmonary valves were backward, which meant the blood that normally flows in a figure eight through the heart actually went in two circles, arriving back in the lungs instead of going out to his body. Jack also had five holes in his heart, a mixed blessing because that allowed the blood to mix and provide limited oxygen.

Major Decision | “We met with a geneticist who suggested we end the pregnancy, but I was at 24 weeks and I just said no,” she says. “These defects run in my family. My cousin is 33 and had one of the first procedures for transposition, and he survived.”

Day By Day | Jack was transferred to Children’s Memorial Hospital immediately after delivery and underwent a balloon angioplasty to enlarge one of the holes.

The Big Day | Four weeks later, he had open heart surgery. “He could have gone into congenital heart failure and died,” she says. The surgery lasted 10 hours, but he was home by Christmas.

Pay It Forward | Van Pelt and her husband, Ryan, wanted to give something back in gratitude for all the research that led to the surgery that saved their son’s life. They discovered the Children’s Heart Foundation and became board members. Ryan was treasurer; she chaired an annual fundraising event, which included a 36-hour dance marathon that raised $330,000.

Much Obliged | “You realize if the research hadn’t been done, your child wouldn’t be here, and it’s almost an obligation to give back,” she says. “The foundation raises money for research, and our doctors decide which research projects we will fund.”

Looking Up | Jack visits his heart doctors every six months, and they say his reengineered heart is doing just fine. He’ll need another sur-gery to replace his aortic valve when he’s bigger. “You look at Jack today and you’d have no idea what he went through,” she says. “He’s pretty much a normal first grader. He loves baseball and the Cubs. He loves Nintendo, just like a typical boy.”

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