When Lola was born, my sister barely made it to the hospital. She was born in the ER and was given the nickname “ER Baby” by the hospital staff. Some of us call her Lady Bug instead.
Lady Bug was only six weeks old when her health problems began. Michelle and her family went up to the mountains in Colorado to introduce their new baby girl to other family members. This is when my sister first noticed Lola turning blue in the face. She and her husband, Rich, immediately rushed down the mountains and after driving for a while, Lola’s color returned. She seemed okay, and Michelle and Rich assumed the high altitude caused the problem, but it happened again. A couple days later Lola turned blue, so Rich rushed her immediately to the ER. Due to her age and size, the doctors were unable to determine why her oxygen levels were so low. They made the decision to take her to the Children’s Hospital Colorado as they knew they could care for her better and diagnose what was happening. This hospital quickly became a second home to the Wimberly family.
The doctors determined that Lola was born with a heart condition known as Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). VSD is a hole (or holes) in the wall separating the two lower chambers of the heart. Unfortunately for my niece, she had many holes in her heart, letting blood go free between both chambers. To give you some context (I surely needed it), normal development is when the wall between the chambers close before the fetus is born, so when the baby is born, oxygen-rich blood is kept from mixing with oxygen-poor blood.
Lola had only one option—open heart surgery to fix her heart. With almost no time to prepare, Michelle and Rich scheduled two appointments. One appointment for the surgery and the other for a photographer to take a photo the day before the surgery. With the risk of the surgery and uncertainty of what would happen, they weren’t sure if that photo would have been their first or last family photo.
The day of the surgery came quick. The goal was to repair the holes in Lola’s heart. After four long hours in the waiting room, the doctors emerged with news of a successful surgery. My sister, her husband, and their kids happily and thankfully cried knowing Lola was going to be okay. However, later that same night, one of the nurses came in to give Lola a bottle when she suddenly started to asphyxiate on her food. Michelle and Rich woke up to a Code Blue. Lola’s heart completely stopped. In a blink of an eye, doctors filled Lola’s room to resuscitate her. They shut down the entire ICU to cut open Lola’s chest… for a second time. The doctors had to manually give compressions to Lola’s heart, and during these attempts, her Aortic Valve was damaged.
I’m no doctor, but from what I know about her Aortic Valve being damaged, this meant her heart would not be able to do what our hearts are supposed to do – pump oxygenated blood to the rest of our body. Lola’s Aortic Valve needed to be fixed or else she would not be able to live much longer.
So in just 2 stressful and taxing days, my sweet niece had to undergo her 3rd open heart surgery to get her torn Aortic Valve stitched. Unfortunately, the surgery was unsuccessful. It was time to start exploring other options, which led us to the Ross Procedure. On to Lola’s 4th surgery, her damaged Aortic Valve was replaced with her pulmonary valve and cryopreserved cadaveric valve was used to replace her pulmonary valve, and this surgery was a success! I wish I could articulate the emotions everyone felt at that moment. I assumed Lola was going to be okay for the rest of her life, but I guess I did not realize this was more of a temporary bandage. You see, cadaver valves do not grow, so Lola must continue to get a replacement valve as she grows up.
Fast forward to today. Our beautiful, sweet (but spunky) niece is now 7 years old. Lola has been a blessing to us all, and we are forever grateful for our little “Lady Bug.” However, over the last several years, our sister and her husband have struggled to keep up with all of Lola’s medical bills. With thousands of dollars for check-ups with specialists paired with surgeries totaling over $30,000, it hasn’t been easy for the Wimberly Family. So here we are… less than a month away before Lola goes back into Children’s Hospital for another procedure.
Of course Michelle and Rich want the best procedure and best doctors to take care of Lola. We obviously want that too. That’s why my 5 brothers and I created this GoFundMe page to ask for your support, donations, and prayers for Lola’s surgery that is scheduled for Thursday, August 3rd. In the very least, we would love if you could share our story with others in hopes to help us give Lola the best she deserves.