Marissa Walker is an active eight-year-old girl and although she tires easily, she loves to run, swim, play and do all the things children her age do. It is hard to believe that this young girl has undergone three open-heart surgeries and is at risk for congestive heart failure because she was born with half a heart – a condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
When her parents brought her home from the hospital, they could tell right away that something was different about her. She seemed to be having trouble breathing and her extremities appeared bluish. Her mother Lorraine saved Marissa’s life by acting quickly and taking her to the doctor.
She was examined and immediately sent to a cardiologist where she was diagnosed and treated. Although there is no long term cure for Marissa’s condition, her clinical team reconstructed the right side of her heart through a series of three surgeries.
The first of these was when she was just eight days old and was the most difficult for her. Marissa failed coming off life support twice and was in the hospital for a total of seven weeks. The next two surgeries were done when she was four months and four years old respectively. Over the course of the three procedures, her heart was reconstructed to function and support her body as both sides normally would. She has recovered well.
These days, Marissa is encouraged to do everything that her body allows her to do. On the outside she looks like other third graders - but she is still living with half a heart. To allow early detection of any problems, Marissa has a check-up every sixth months. She has a 90 percent chance to live to ten without further intervention.
The Walker family knows the value of the research funded by the American Heart Association and is grateful for the advances already made in the cardiovascular field. They hope for a new medical breakthrough to fix Marissa’s heart for good. They have been involved with the American Heart Association since 2008, participating in the Start! Central Valley Heart Walk and serving as spokespersons for the organization.
Celebrate the difference you can make. Attend your local Heart Ball.
The Central Valley Heart Ball, will be held at
Weber BMW, Saturday, May 15, 2010