Giulia was born with and ASD (atrial septal defect) but it was never detected. She led a perfectly normal childhood as a beautiful, smart, chubby baby. She excelled at every milestone. There was no failure to thrive or a symptom of any kind.
At the age of 12, Giulia started complaining of chest pains. She visited the doctor several times but each time was told there was nothing wrong. We were told it was anxiety and that something else must have been wrong. Twice we visited the ER after late night panic attacks. Chest X-rays and Ekg’s both came back normal. At yet another trip to the local urgent care, the doctor there heard a murmur. We followed up with the pediatrician again and he finally suggested we go for an echocardiogram. We made an appointment with a cardiologist and when they came in with the news we were in a complete state of shock. She had an ASD that would require surgery. We were told for so long that nothing was wrong and now we were facing open heart surgery.
We met a family at the cardiologist’s office with a daughter that had a similar story. We couldn’t believe there was another teenager going through the same thing. She was one week post-op when we met her and she looked great. It gave us a lot of confidence and comfort hearing their story and what they had gone through. I considered that family a Godsend because they were in our path when we needed someone to hold us up.
We decided to have the surgery done right away. We met with the surgeon and felt confident that all would go well. Giulia also was able to meet her surgeon and talk to him in his office. The morning of the surgery was very scary. Since Giulia wasn’t a baby, she was scared and we did our best to comfort her. It was hard to see her go into the OR; the nurses were great and comforted us too. We waited in the waiting room for several hours. The nurse came out several times to update us. The power of prayer from family and friends surrounded us and gave us peace. The surgery to repair the hole was a success, and Giulia did very well recovering. It’s been over two years and her annual cardiologist appointments have all been great.
After the experience that changed her life, Giulia wanted to do something to pay forward the kindness that was shown to her. From the staff at the cardiologist’s office to the staff at the PICU in the hospital to the wonderful, amazing angels at the CHD Coalition, Giulia never experienced a bad moment. She decided to run a journal drive to collect journals to add to the heart bags. She so enjoyed her own bag and uses it to this day. She has hosted five drives so far and plans to keep doing it each year during February – Heart Month. Doing something like this helps her remember her experience in a positive way. Other events like the CHD Charity Walk and family events are opportunities to come together with your own family as well as your CHD families. To learn other people’s stories and journeys is amazing and very helpful. Giulia also enjoys knowing all about the heart in health class!
Instead of putting a bad experience behind her, Giulia looks forward to many years of helping her cause and sending heartfelt prayers to all the families on this path. God Bless!