Coworkers rally around young couple after baby diagnosed with heart defect

Coworkers rally around young couple after baby diagnosed with heart defect

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — When Thomas Eastwood and Kaeli Sargent met at Olive Garden and fell in love, they didn’t expect the role the restaurant would come to play in their lives.

“It would be 100 percent different if it wasn’t for all the support…it would be a lot more difficult,” said Kaeli.

Thomas Eastwood and Kaeli Sargent found out they were pregnant last year and were ecstatic. But during their 18-week ultrasound, doctors spotted an abnormality. After being referred to Boston Children’s, more testing confirmed revealed their baby girl had a rare congenital heart defect known as tricuspid atresia.

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“It’s scary, it’s intimidating. I definitely knew I needed to get more information, and learn more about it, and how it would change my life,” said Thomas.

The news was overwhelming for the first time parents.

“Suddenly not only did I need to learn about an infant and pregnancy but also open heart surgery,” said Thomas.

“You never want to hear your baby is sick,” said Kaeli.

What Kaeli and Thomas did not expect was the reaction from their coworkers at the Olive Garden. When they heard about the diagnosis, the team immediately stepped up, offering emotional and financial support.

“When they say, ‘you’re here, you’re family,’ it’s more than that when you work here,” said Thomas.

Since baby Savannah’s birth, Thomas and Kaeli have been by their baby’s side through days in the ICU and weekly doctor visits, while open heart surgeries are looming. Kaeli has had to take a lot of time off work to be with Savannah, and Thomas has as well, which has made the already expensive medical bills even more difficult.

Co-workers have helped rally thousands of dollars in donations for Thomas and Kaeli through fundraisers like bracelets that say “Saving Savannah.” Customers who have heard about it are buying the bracelets to join in the cause. The Olive Garden is also giving them $1,000 to help them.

“It’s all my team, 100 percent. I am very fortunate to have such a tight-knit group,” said Olive Garden General Manager Roland Furtado.

The couple says all of the help has made it all so much easier.

“I just want to say thank you,” said Thomas.

Savannah is slated for open heart surgery in January and Kaeli says she’s doing well right now.

“She does normal baby things,” she said.

The family said down the road, they want to pay it forward, donating back to Boston Children's Hospital to help families just like them.