Special performance to honour dancer recovering from open-heart surgery

A Rossland dancer who just received open-heart surgery is taking a seat in the audience at an upcoming fundraiser performance.

Sixteen-year-old Nadia van Asselt has returned to Rossland Secondary School and is looking forward to slipping back into her regular routine of taking ballet and modern lessons at Kootenay DanceWorks after undergoing an operation May 9.

The teen who lives with a congenital heart deformity spent four days of rest at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alta., after getting her valve in her heart replaced for the third time. In van Asselt’s case, symptoms like exaustion and intense headaches are indication that it’s time to replace the valve that overtime degenerates.

As a means of appreciation, Kootenay DanceWorks is hosting a special fundraiser show June 17 at Rossland Secondary School at 6:30 p.m. with proceeds going to the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.

“I’m feeling really good, I’m getting my strength back up from after the surgery,” said van Asselt. “I was extremely tired, I would sleep as much as I could. A big thing is my hands and feet would get really cold, my hands would swell up and I would get lots and lots of headaches that wouldn’t go away unless I slept.”

The Grade 11 student’s passion for dance started with her involvement in Steps Dance in Trail but reached new heights when she switched to the Rossland studio ran by instructor and owner Renee Salsiccioli.

“Renee has an amazing ability to convey the passion for dance,” said van Asselt’s mom, Susan. “Nadia clicks with her really well, she loves the discipline that Renee imposes on dance, she demands a huge amount of self-discipline from the girls and Nadia rises to that.”

The teen has been involved with Kootenay DanceWorks for the past four years, a pastime she’s kept after establishing a physical limit she stays clear from when exerting energy.

“She’s not going to let anything stop her if she wants to do it and she’s extremely disciplined,” said Susan. “She probably has a maturity beyond her years because she’s faced all of this. She’s not going to take no for an answer if that’s what she decides she wants to do.”

van Asselt was born with a congenital heart deformity, which occurs because of incomplete or abnormal development of the fetus’ heart during the very early weeks of pregnancy.

Some are known to be associated with genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, but the cause of most congenital heart defects is unknown.

She had her first open-heart surgery at just over three years old and it’s expected she’ll have to have her valve replaced about every five years.

“It is what it is, it’s just part of what we have to do and what Nadia has to do,” said Susan. “We don’t dwell on it, we make it very matter of fact.”

Though she has a scar across her chest to remind her of her condition, van Asselt stays positive. After staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton, she felt lucky when she met younger children who had severe conditions.

van Asselt finds dance therapeutic, so much so that doctors were amazed by her recent quick recovery time.

“It’s mostly the expression of dance, the ability to express something to someone without using words and being able to show your emotions through movement,” she said of her desire to dance.

“When I step into the studio, it’s like everything else goes away and I can focus on what I need to do and how to improve in dance.”

Though she won’t be dancing at the upcoming performance, she can smile knowing she’ll be back in the groove of things in no time.

Admission is by donation and a tax receipt will be given to those who give $25 or more.