February is Heart Awareness Month, designed to raise awareness for congenital heart defect (CHD). It’s a cause close to Chelliney’s heart because she was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a rare congenital heart defect in which the left ventricle of the heart is severely underdeveloped.
“The doctors thought I wouldn’t survive, because there was low oxygen in my body,” said Chelliney, daughter of Ronald Watkins of Cadiz. Oxygen deficiency is a major problem for HLHS patients, because the left side of a healthy heart pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. “They gave my parents three choices – to take me home and make me comfortable; a heart transplant, which my dad didn’t want to do because it takes forever to get a heart transplant; or heart surgery.”
Chelliney’s first open heart surgery began when she was just 12 hours old. She’s lost track of how many surgeries she’s had since then, because surgery is not a cure. “My aorta is the size of a pencil and everyone else’s is the size of a garden hose.”
For the rest of this story, see this week's issue of The Cadiz Record or subscribe to our e-Edition by calling 270-522-6605.