Gabriella, born 2003
Gabriella was born on August 28, 2003. A beautiful baby, Gabriella was born with two medical conditions, congenital cataracts and a heart defect, Atrial Septal Defect. Surgery on her eyes was done in infancy to allow her to see, but her heart defect was not detected until the summer of 2006, when she was just about to turn three years old. She had no symptoms and we were shocked when during a routine medical checkup for a cough, a heart murmur was detected. After a visit to Connecticut Children's Medical Center for an EKG and ultrasound, our worst fears were confirmed. Gabriella indeed had an ASD which would require open heart surgery to repair and close. We were in complete shock and saddened to hear our little girl, who had already undergone four eye surgeries, had to undergo yet another operation, this time on her heart.
At the time of her diagnosis there was a procedure done in the heart catheterization lab which would avoid the need for open heart surgery where a patch is inserted through a catheter and placed on the hole. Our hopes were that his procedure could be done on Gabriella. However, this was not to be the case. It was determined that the hole in her heart was too large to undergo this procedure and she would need to have open heart surgery. After the initial shock wore off, we explained to Gabriella that she had a very special heart because she had so much love in it and it needed to be fixed so the love did not fall out. She was so brave and without a tear, said "Okay mommy, let's fix it."
In January of 2007 our little girl had an angel by her side during her surgery and recovery. I think it was harder on us, as parents, to watch her go through it and see her lying there so helpless in the PICU. Her surgery was a success and we are still amazed by how quickly she recovered. Five days later and she was running down the hall of the hospital and playing with her little sister! We are forever indebted to Dr. Dennis Mello, her amazing surgeon, and Dr. Felice Heller, her wonderful cardiologist. In fact, it was truly the entire team at Connecticut Children's who took care of Gabriella, from the doctors and nurses, to the child life specialists; everyone was amazing and helped to make her stay and recovery so comfortable. Gabriella, or GG as she is sometimes called, is now a healthy and kind 12 year old. She is full of life, and loves to hang out with her friends, swim, and Irish Step Dance. She tells everyone who asks about her chest scar what happened and how it has become her bravery scar. We are very grateful to Connecticut Children's for all they have done for her, and as a way to say thank you our family hosts a town-wide "Ice Cream Scoop Night" each August around GG's birthday, with proceeds to benefit the Division of Cardiology. To date Scoop Night has raised $30,000 for the Division.
In 2013, GG decided she wanted to do something special for children, like her, who have a CHD and need heart surgery. She asked if she could raise money and buy them teddy bears. Thus, "GG's Hearts" was founded. These special teddy bears are designed with a flat back, for children to hold against their chest when they cough during the recovery of heart surgery. Each bear is funded solely on donations from family and friends and wears a special t-shirt created by GG. Her bears have been donated to children with heart issues at Connecticut Children's, Yale-New Haven Children's, Boston Children's, Maine Medical and even Ghana! They have also been donated to Little Hearts, as well, so they can give them out to other heart children. Gabriella has had the wonderful experience to debut her teddy bears on Better Connecticut, a local television show, and our local television station.
Story by Gabriella's mother, Adria - Connecticut