It only took one routine sonogram to realize something was wrong with Diana’s unborn baby, one diagnosis to change her life forever, and one referral to Children’s Hospital Colorado to bring back hope for her daughter’s future.
“At my five month sonogram, my doctor realized my baby’s heart beat wasn’t right, so I was referred to Children’s Colorado,” said Diana.
There, Diana’s daughter, Danielle, was diagnosed with tricuspid atresia, a heart defect that hinders blood flow, depriving the body of oxygen.
When Danielle was just 3 months old, she had to undergo open heart surgery at Children’s Colorado to repair the defect. Over the next few years, Danielle battled viral infections, water in her lungs, and a second surgery. Now, 11 years later, she is a happy and healthy young girl.
“Once she sets her mind to do something, she will do it,” said Diana. “She’s a fighter.”
Danielle was fortunate to have a whole team of fighters at Children’s Colorado who helped her along the way. The Heart Institute at Children’s Colorado is part of the National Pediatric Cardiology Quality Improvement Collaborative, an initiative to fight for better outcomes for kids with heart defects like Danielle’s.
In fact, Children’s Colorado is fighting so hard for these outcomes that they have created a multidisciplinary, evidence-based program called the Single Ventricle Clinic, the only program of its kind in the Rocky Mountain region. Through research and clinical care, the program works to give children like Danielle hope for a healthier future.
“I have no words to describe how much Children’s Colorado means to us,” says Diana. “They have some of the very best doctors. I can boldly say that if it weren’t for them, Danielle wouldn’t be here today.”
Those doctors include an entire team of specialists who are working tirelessly every day to help patients with the same diagnosis as Danielle. The most common form of treatment for babies born with tricuspid atresia is a Fontan operation – the same procedure that Danielle had at 3 months old. While the operation does not completely repair the heart defect, it typically allows the child to grow up and lead a normal, active life. It is through the help of donors that this approach to treating heart defects in children is possible.
'She is my miracle'
Donations big and small are helping the Heart Institute at Children’s Colorado to make enormous strides forward in pediatric cardiology. Philanthropic support allows for groundbreaking research, world-class staff and innovative clinical trials.
Currently, Children’s Colorado is one of only 28 hospitals in the nation chosen to conduct clinical trials for Fontan operations. Many children and young adults who have a Fontan operation find it increasingly difficult to remain physically active over time. This trial aims to prevent that from happening, while also helping patients to exercise more easily and become stronger as they grow.
Danielle isn’t letting her medical history keep her from exercising or staying active. It’s even possible that her treatment at Children’s Colorado could help her to reach her goal of becoming the first female NFL football player. But for today, her mother is grateful that Children’s Colorado has given her daughter the chance to pursue any dream she has.
“I am so thankful for Children’s Colorado,” says Diana. “They saved my daughter. She is my miracle.”