Heart Kids Rock at Special Dinner Dance
Emily Stringfellow, is a wide-smiled, gentle mannered girl who loves the color pink, Hello Kitty and The Little Mermaid. She is a savvy iPod Touch user and loves taking photos and listening to Katy Perry. Although she is only four years old, Emily has gone through more in her short life than most people ever will.
Emily was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome - a congenital heart defect that can be fatal at birth. Beating the odds, Emily underwent successful open-heart-surgery at one week old and a second surgery at six months old. Two months ago. Emily underwent a Fontan surgery at Sutter Children's Center, Sacramento - the third open heart surgery required for her condition.
Emily's father, Stephen, her primary care taker since her birth, and her grandmother Angela LeBeau, have been by Emily's side each step of the way. Though it's been a roller coaster ride, Stephen said Emily has never been better than she is now.
"Before her surgery in December we would go to the park and she would take a few steps and be so tired, start coughing and her fingers and lips would turn blue," Stephen said. "Now she has so much energy, and her lips are pink for the first time. We've seen such a difference."
Last Saturday, Emily, her father and grandmother joined dozens of other pediatric heart patients in the Sacramento region for the first annual Heart Kids Rock Valentine's Dinner and Dance event, sponsored by the non-profit Angels for Hearts and Sutter Children's Center, Sacramento. During their special daddy-daughter date, Emily and Stephen had the opportunity to meet more than 100 other pediatric heart patients and their families, something Emily couldn't wait to do.
"She was really looking forward to this event," Stephen said. "She has never been around too many kids with heart issues, so she wanted to meet other kids like her."
Nicole Wilson, P.A., pediatric heart surgery physician assistant at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, helped organize the party and said Valentine's Day can be a herd time for patients and parents as they remember their struggles and the fight against congenital heart disease. Nicole said the evening celebrated National Heart Awareness Month, Congenital Heart Defect Week and the traditional Valentine's Day by celebrating the heart kids and giving them an evening they will never forget.
"Radio Disney was at event, providing dance music and prizes," Nicole said. "We will also had a photo booth, face painting, Valentine's cards and blow up guitars to decorate. A delicious spaghetti feed dinner was donated by Lucca Restaurant and cake provided by Icing Smiles. We had such a great time with everyone who came out."
In addition to heart patients and their families, Emily and Stephen were able to visiting with her surgeon, Teimour Nasirov, M.D., pediatric heart surgeon at Sutter Children's Center, Sacramento.
"Dr. Nasirov is amazing," Stephen said. "From my personal experience, it would be 11:30 p.m. or midnight and Dr. Nasirov would come in and check in on Emily while she was recovering. He goes the extra mile. It's not just surgery for him. He treats the kids like they are his own."
Doctors anticipate that if all goes well Emily's next surgery - a heart transplant - won't be needed until she is a teenager. They are optimistic that by then new advances in technology will provide Emily with other options.
"With so many ups and downs over the years, it felt like the wind was been knocked out of me and it was hard to breath," Stephen said. "Now that things are getting better, it feels like I can finally breathe again and look forward to our future."