(Story and photos courtesy of my Lisa Vallejos, founder and president of the non-profit organization Gabriel’s Gift.. Oh, and he she just happens to be the mom of a superhero!):
“‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ by Dr. Seuss is an inspirational story for kids of all ages that was somewhat of an anchor for us during Gabriel’s hospitalization (and after!). We chose to open with this quote because we want you to first of all, have hope. Embrace it. The possibilities are endless and our story is just one of many that will inspire you to expect miracles.
We learned about Gabriel’s diagnosis while he was still in utero; we were fortunate enough to have an ultrasound technician who noticed something wrong with his heart and we were immediately referred to a specialist. After meeting with the pediatric cardiologist, we were presented with 4 options: terminate the pregnancy, compassionate care, the Norwood procedure or a heart transplant. After many sleepless nights and days spent in research, we decided to proceed with a heart transplant and began the process of finding the best Children’s Hospital in the nation for transplants. Imagine our surprise when we were informed that Denver’s very own Children’s Hospital has one of the best heart transplant programs in America!
Gabriel was born big and strong and was transferred to Children’s Hospital about 36 hours after he entered the world. When he arrived at Children’s, the Transplant Team worked around the clock to evaluate him, confirm his diagnosis and establish a plan of action. Within 24 hours, Gabriel was listed on the UNOS transplant list. We were told that the wait for a heart could be anywhere from 3 to 6 months and we prepared ourselves for the duration. However, we received a call when he was 13 days old that there was a match and the transplant team was flying out immediately to check it out. We waited on pins and needles to hear from the retrieval team while our family raced to get to the hospital.
At about 8:00 p.m., Gabriel was wheeled into the operating room while we walked beside his crib. We left him at the door and went out to the waiting room and settled in for the long night. About every hour, the transplant coordinator on duty would come out and give us updates; his chest was open, the team had landed with the new heart and was on their way, his old heart was out and his new heart was in. When his new heart started beating on its own, there were shouts of joy in the waiting room. It was now 3:30 a.m. and we were all physically and emotionally exhausted.
When we were allowed in to see Gabriel, it was a shock. He was swollen to about three times his normal size and had IV’s in at least 8 different places. There were so many medications flooding his little body but it was easy to see beyond the trauma of his surgery because we knew this was his only chance at survival. He remained swollen for quite a few days but eventually returned to normal. He opened his eyes, got his chest closed up and the ventilator removed. In less than a week, he was moved out of the Cardiac ICU and into the Infant Care Center.
We brought him home 11 days after his transplant.”
Our family met Gabriel and his beautiful family a few years ago. Boy were we lucky. We were brand new to the area and had yet to meet any CHD survivors in Colorado. We truly lucked out meeting them and we feel the same way to this very day. For the past 3 years we’ve had the privilege of getting to see Gabriel grow and grow! He’s doing incredible things and there is no stopping this little man. He has a thirst for life, a huge spirit, and never ceases to amazing everyone who has the pleasure of meeting him. Rock on, Gabriel! We love you big guy!
“Oh the places you’ll go”….
**Gabriel’s Gift is a 501(c)3 that was founded to provide assistance to families who have been impacted by congenital heart defects as well as to raise awareness about CHD.**
**Register here at Donate Life to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor: Donate Life**