Francesca Garnetti of Riverview celebrates today's holiday with a priceless gift: Her youngest of three daughters, Valentina, is at home on Christmas for the first time since her birth more than two years ago.
The brown-eyed toddler was hospitalized for 694 days because of severe congenital heart problems that took four operations to fix. A University of Michigan Health blog post this week sketches the saga:
Valentina was prenatally diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, sometimes referred to as "half a heart," which leaves the left side of the heart critically underdeveloped and too small to perform its job of providing blood flow to the entire body.
Garnetti was referred to the Congenital Heart Center at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, where Valentina was born in May 2019 and underwent four open heart surgeries. But her heart condition was extremely complex, and she remained too sick to go home. ...
But this year will be different. This year, Valentina will wake up Christmas morning in her own bed in her floral-themed pink room, open presents under the Christmas tree with her siblings and experience first-time holiday memories with her family.
“We are going to do everything we can – drive around to see Christmas lights, visit Santa, watch Christmas movies on the couch together – all the things kids look forward to this time of year that we don't take for granted now,” said her mom. "It's just going to be so amazing to be outside the hospital and together as a family, watching my girls experience this day together and celebrating all of the love and happiness."
Since coming home earlier this year, Valentina has bonded with sisters Gianna, 5, and Adriana, 1. Their picture was in her hospital room, but she had met them just briefly.
"What brings me the most joy is watching her play with her sisters, reading books to each other, smiling, just being together,” Garnetti said. "We're not sure what the future looks like, but we're just so appreciative of our time together right now."
The Downriver parent recalls scary uncertainty during the long hospitalization, telling Michigan Health public relations manager Beata Mostafavi: "There were days we weren't sure she'd even have a future outside the hospital and taking it day by day. It was terrifying."
Valentina recently had another surgery in Ann Arbor for her airway and continues to rely on tubes for feeding and oxygen, according to the post. It quotes one of her physicians, pediatric cardiologist Mary Olive:
"Valentina continues to inspire us with her strength, resilience and joyfulness. She had an exceptionally difficult journey in her first two years of life, but seeing her thriving at home makes those hard times a distant memory. ...
"We’re so happy to see her enjoying time with her family at home."