While still tucked safely in her mother’s womb, Valentina Garnetti was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition in which the left side of the heart does not form properly, affecting blood flow in the heart. Those with the condition are often referred to as having “half a heart,” and tragically, abortion is often presented as the ‘solution’. Thankfully, Valentina’s mother has fought for her daughter’s life every step of the way and after 694 days in the hospital, the little girl is finally home with her family.
“2 years. 694 days old. 694 days spent in the hospital,” her mother Francesca Garnetti wrote on Facebook. “The world kept spinning and life went on all while Valentina was stuck inside her little four walls of her hospital room. Valentina has been through so much in her life: 6 surgeries — 4 of them open heart, 14 days on ecmo (life support), 8 heart caths, 28 chest tubes, 2 strokes, seizures, survival flight to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for 9 days for a thoracic duct embolization, 300+ xrays, and thousands of other tests and procedures. Some days I thought this day would never come. We’ve asked for so many prayers and gotten prayers from people all over the world. You can’t tell me that miracles don’t happen because Valentina is one.”
Born May 1, 2019, at Michigan’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Valentina was taken to the pediatric cardiothoracic intensive care unit. Her first open-heart surgery took place when she was just two days old and her most recent was in October 2020. She is the longest cardiac-related hospitalization in the history of the hospital but she overcame so many complications that there were times when the doctors couldn’t even explain her healing. As she fought for her life inside those hospital walls and celebrated her first birthday, the world outside entered the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Valentina had a long and difficult journey here at Mott, but she continued to surprise us with her strength and resilience,” Dr. Mary Olive, pediatric cardiologist at Mott Children’s Hospital, told Good Morning America. “It was inspiring to see our whole congenital heart center team come together to determine how to best care for her.
“Her mom was also very strong and dedicated to doing whatever it took to help her get home. We were just so happy to see Valentina get to go home and spend time with her siblings and family.”
Throughout all of her medical challenges, Valentina proved to be a fighter and a joy to everyone around her, including her nurses.
“She’s the happiest baby in the whole entire world, despite everything she’s been through,” her mother told Good Morning America. “She’s the greatest joy. She loves everyone … she just loves her life, genuinely.”
Liana, one of Valentina’s primary nurses, became so close to the family that Francesca asked her to be Valentina’s godmother. “I’ve relied on my faith a lot and she helped me through it,” said Francesca. “On a personal level, if anything were to happen to me, she loves Valentina. She knows how to care for her and she would without a doubt.”
After a hospital send-off on March 24, Valentina is home with her family including sisters Gianna, 5, and Adriana, 1. But her medical journey isn’t over. She still uses continuous oxygen and requires medical equipment and medications. However, she continues to amaze doctors with how well she is doing.
“Having my three girls together at home for the first time is the most amazing thing,” said Francesca. “I feel like I’m living in a dream. This is the start of our new chapter in life.”
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Author: Nancy Flanders
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