Our daughter Jemma began to have trouble breathing not long after she was born and we were rushed to the ER at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
This video was taken 18 hours after Jemma was born, and resulted in a rush to the ER, where she was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
The nurses took her from my arms and I knew that something was very wrong. A pediatric cardiologist eventually came to talk with us and I’ll never forget what he said: “Your daughter has a major heart defect–she only has half a heart.” The words made no sense to me, so he began to draw a picture of a heart, but this one had no right ventricle. My daughter’s heart was incomplete, defective, broken.
Her only hope of survival was a series of open heart surgeries over her infancy and childhood. Before they began her first operation, they took several images of her heart. Using those images, they constructed a 3D image of her heart and printed it out using a 3D printer. This cutting edge technology allowed them to familiarize themselves with her physiology before they even began operating.
A few weeks after that, they presented us with our own copy of Jemma’s heart. For the first time since receiving such a terrifying diagnosis, my husband and I finally saw her heart and were able to understand what exactly was wrong and how they were able to fix it.
Today that model sits under glass on our shelf as one of our most prized possessions. That Christmas my husband surprised me by printing her heart in silver and turning it into a necklace. Now everyday, Jemma’s heart hangs right next to mine. At sixteen months of age, Jemma has already had three open heart surgeries.
It’s a miracle that she’s with us today.
If you would like to help other babies like Jemma, please consider donating here.
If you would also like to have a replica of Jemma’s heart, create from the same data used to make the 3D printed replica that helped doctors save her life, click here.