A 2012-13 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals® hero
Video courtesy of WXOW Channel 19.
Four-year-old Emma Groll of Bangor, with the appropriate middle name of Joy, is living proof that the size of the heart does not affect a person’s capacity to love.
Within a day of her birth at Gundersen Health System, a doctor heard a murmur in Emma’s heart which led to a diagnosis of hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This is a rare heart defect in which the left side of the heart is critically underdeveloped, so it’s unable to pump blood to the body as it should.
“Emma had her first of three open-heart surgeries when she was just nine days old. Her third surgery was last August just after she turned 3 years old,” explain Emma’s parents, Liz and Justin. “Hopefully this will be her last surgery for some time, but she will likely need other surgeries later in life or a possible heart transplant.”
Emma is now 4 years old. “She’s doing great,” say her enthusiast, but guarded, parents. “We don’t know what the future holds for her. The oldest person living with this condition is in their early 20s.”
Through it all, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a service of Gundersen Medical Foundation, was there to support the Groll family. “They are so easy to talk to and they offer so much more,” say the Grolls.
“They provided money for gas, food and motel stays for each of Emma’s surgeries. They helped pay for an amazing weekend for our family just before Emma’s last surgery,” the Grolls explain. “This allowed us to be together, have fun and, for a brief time, forget about the surgery and just be a normal family.”
Despite having a heart that’s underdeveloped, it can still be said that Emma has a heart as big as her smile. She loves her mom and dad and three sisters, of course. And like other little girls she also loves being a princess, playing with Barbies, watching Dora and Diego and Bubble Guppies, the color green and there’s a special place in her heart for Eugene “Flynn” Fitzherbert from “Tangled” (who can blame her?).
With the care of her team, including her family, friends, the CMN Hospitals staff plus a home nurse, two cardiologists, pediatrician and surgical team, there’s much hope that Emma will have the heart to go on for many, many more years. After all, she has a lot more love to share.