Heart ‘warriors’ walk to raise awareness

Ailian Evans leads the Angels and Warriors Beach Walk, carrying a portrait of her son Nolan, who died in 2018 at the age of seven months. - Photo: Andrel Harris

More than 100 ‘warriors and angels’ of all ages and sizes descended on Seven Mile Public Beach, at the crack of dawn on Sunday, for the second annual beach walk to support children born with congenital heart defects.

Leading the charge at the Heart Warriors and Angels Beach Walk were Sean and Ailian Evans, parents of Nolan, a seven-month-old baby who lost his fight two years ago against truncus arteriosus – a congenital heart defect.

“We are a part of Team Nolan,” said Ailian. “This is the second annual event and we are extremely pleased with everything we have accomplished so far. Today we walk in honour of Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week 2020 and in memory of an undoubtedly beautiful heart warrior.”

Baby Nolan Evans passed away in January 2018.

Since baby Nolan’s passing in January 2018, his parents and wider family have teamed up with the Cayman Heart Fund to create the Team Nolan Pediatric Program. The group has embarked on several awareness campaigns and has raised money to help children suffering from the potentially fatal condition.

“In October of 2019, Team Nolan was able to cover the full cost of the purchase of a critically needed infant transport incubator for the Health Services Authority’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” said Ailian. “In December 2019, Team Nolan presented a substantial donation of financial support to a family in need.”

Dr. Bella Beraha, chair of the Cayman Heart Fund, said much more research is required to help identify the causes of congenital heart defects in children.

“One in 100 babies are born with congenital heart defects,” said Beraha. “Because the scope and types of congenital heart defects are so many, it’s hard to identify the causes. Currently, 20% is thought to result from genetics, but the other 80% is unknown.”

Organisers pose with Governor Martyn Roper, standing, fifth from right, and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, sixth from right, at Sunday morning’s beach walk. – Photos: Andrel Harris

Prior to the start of the 2-kilometre beach walk, baby Nolan’s grandfather, Rudolf ‘Rudy’ Evans, was asked to say a prayer, during which he recalled asking God, “If it is your will to take Nolan from us, please help us to use his death to touch the lives of others.”

It seems that prayer might have been answered.

“This year has been extremely successful; we have more people here than we did last year,” said Ailian. “We’ve been able to raise a lot of awareness. Sometimes you can’t tell [children with heart defects] apart from other kids, but their scars are very real. Beneath their shirts are battle scars – constant reminders of their battles to live.”

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now