EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSHoping To Heal Her Heart
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported: Feb. 28, 2014 5:35 PM EST
Updated: Mar. 5, 2014 11:05 AM EST
HURRICANE, W.Va. (Darrah Wilcox) -- After a nearly perfect pregnancy in 2007, six days before their daughter Jenna was born, Justin and Jennifer Meadows found out something was wrong.
The Meadows found out little Jenna had Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia and Multiple Aorta Pulmonary Collateral Arteries. It basically means she was born without the connection between her heart to her lungs. She had a small hole between the upper chambers of her heart, a very large hole between the lower chambers, no pulmonary artery (connection from her heart to lungs for blood flow), an enlarged heart, overriding Aorta.
"She has very high pressure in her heart which causes a lot of strain on it," explained mom Jennifer.
In just six and a half years, she's had 20 surgeries. Sixteen of those are heart-related. She's had three open-heart surgeries, and 12 heart caths.
"You are constantly have your guard up, you constantly are worried about what's going to happen, and you unfortunately have in the back of your mind, that the life could be way shorter than it should be or you ever expected as a parent," said Jennifer.
During one tough five month stay in the hospital in Cincinnati, the Meadows didn't think they'd bring her home. Jennifer said Jenna coded for ten minutes. "We cried and hoped and prayed and wanted everything, she's only two and a half," she said she remembered thinking.
Jenna did pull through, but the next two years were difficult. " She had a trach, we had a ventilator, all kinds of equipment," said Jennifer.
A few months ago, doctors told them there were no other medical interventions available for Jenna. "You always have that hope that they will fix your child, things are growing and research is happening, but at this point with her, they don't have anything else to do."
Doctors want Jenna to live as normally as possible. "They said let's just let her be a child, enjoy things"
This year, she started kindergarten at Conner Street Elementary in Hurricane. "We're hoping that she can be able to go for at least ten , into her teenage years, maybe even in to her early twenties before she starts to decline," said Jennifer.
While they struggle staying optimistic, they'll always hold out hope for the best. "30 years ago, they didn't survive. Ten years ago, they still struggled. It wasn't until about ten years ago that they pioneered one of the better surgeries for her condition," said Jennifer.
Husband Justin added, "It's constantly evolving, just getting there, is basically a waiting game. We hope and we pray that something will be found."
Jennifer said, "Every child like her is different. Everyone with her diagnosis is different. None of them is the same, none of them have the inside the same, and so that's hard, because and yes it's going to be great, but it doesn't always work out that way. You deal with the cards your dealt. Everybody's always asked us, I don't know how you do it, and how do you handle everything, and you have to. You don't have a choice."
For now they'll continue to treasure each moment. "I live every day to the day that we've got with her, don't take anything for granted, because it could be gone tomorrow," said Justin.
They'll continue to be inspired by her resilience. "She doesn't know, but she's our hero. She really is, because she's proven to us that anybody can do anything. Anybody can handle anything. The things she's gone through in her life, no adult, the majority of adults, will never go through what she's gone through in six and a half years, almost seven. Just for the things that she handles, and she bounces back so fast, and she smiles every single day, it makes us think, you know what, it's going to be okay. She's such a strong little, strong-willed," said Jennifer.
Jenna has been the honorary chair of the 2013 Huntington Heart Walk, the chair for the 2014 Charleston Heart Ball Open Your Heart campaign, and fellow students at her school have helped raise several thousand dollar for the Jump Rope For Heart campaign in honor of Jenna and three other heart survivors there.
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