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Heart Warriors: A Heart Perspective

Published on Feb. 23, 2021

One of the special things about a children’s hospital is that our tiny patients who are seeking to get better are often the ones who demonstrate the greatest strength. They have an innocence that radiates a wholesome positivity. Behind a patient is most often a worried parent – and the will they find within themselves to demonstrate their pure love and support for their little ones always shines through.

Heart Warrior blog imageMeet Elise. She was just a 5-year-old when she went in for a regular doctor visit. No one, especially her mom and dad, would suspect that anything was wrong. So when her doctor recommended some extra screening because he heard subtle clicking in her heart, they could not have expected that the unprecedented year of 2020 would also present an unexpected diagnosis that would lead to necessary heart surgery. Elise’s mom, Jen, remembers this day so clearly and was by her side every step of the way.

Even though Elise did not have any of the common symptoms, further testing confirmed that she had partial anomalous pulmonary venous return (PAPVR). Elise refers to it as an upside down heart because it was pumping oxygen-rich blood into her lungs instead of to the rest of her body. During a time like no other, Elise needed a life-saving heart procedure from the experts at Valley Children’s to allow proper blood flow to her lungs and body.

It was June 22, 2020, the day of Elise’s heart surgery. And although Elise was in and out of sleep, Jen would capture her love and support for Elise as she watched her recover at her bedside:

Dear Elise,

Today was one of the most difficult days of my life. It was only difficult because I didn’t have any control over what needed to be repaired. You were incredibly brave the entire time. You were not worried and were always calm. Your strength astounded me. You are 5 years old and are stronger than most adults I know.Right now we are in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and you are on heavy medication and resting. God knew you were so special and trusted me with you, so I promise you sweet girl, I will do so. I will do whatever it takes to get you feeling better. By the time you read this, you will be so healthy, alive and well. Because of this surgery, you will be stronger than ever. You are my heart warrior.

Your number one request right now is water, and guess what? Thank goodness, you get to drink water! You keep saying, “Mom can I have a water bottle, please? Please?!” They gave you a baby sponge to suck on because without medication, it could make you nauseous. So now, you get water! I am so excited.

I am watching you sleep and wow, you are glowing, beautiful angel. You inspire me, Elise. I thank God you are mine. Thank you baby for teaching me how to be the best mama for you.

I love you.

Mommy (8:57 pm)

Image of journal entry

After a five-day hospital stay, virtual visits and some extra screen time, Elise made a full recovery. Today, Elise is even happier and more enthusiastic than ever. She loves ballet class and wants to be a teacher just like her mom.

While the year posed its challenges, the specialized care at Valley Children’s brought hope in an unimaginably difficult time, and Elise brought a sparkle that ignited happiness for everyone around her. May the wholesome positivity and strength that children like Elise bring illuminate the future to come.