Mia defies the odds

Zapata family says their faith and Children’s medical expertise changed the course of their daughter’s life

Sebastian Zapata and his wife, Diana, were anxiously awaiting their 20-week ultrasound in June 2018, where they would find out their baby’s gender. But the appointment took a very bleak turn when staff at their community hospital noticed a serious cardiac abnormality: a ventricular septal defect, or a hole in her heart. “Staff members explained we had two options, but for us, there was really only one, and that was to continue with the pregnancy and be followed by the Cardiology team at the Children’s,” says Sebastian.

Their first three follow-ups at the Children’s were with Dr. Claudia Renaud, pediatric cardiologist, who ordered a fetal echocardiogram to better visualize their daughter’s heart and to paint a picture of what the future might look like once Mia was born. “Meeting with Dr. Renaud filled us with so much more hope,” says Sebastian. “We knew we were still discussing a severe cardiac malformation, but we felt confident that the team at the Children’s had the experience and the knowledge to help us face whatever would come.”

“After having been given such little hope, I was completely devastated,” says Diana. “But Dr. Renaud had such compassion and a way of explaining things, I felt like the team would do everything possible for Mia once she was born to ensure her well-being. I just kept trusting in God and trusting in the professionals.”

Dr. Renaud explained that Mia may require cardiac surgery, and may need to be hospitalized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. More information would be made clear once she was born. To their delight, in October 2018 when she finally arrived, Mia was in better health than expected. She was breathing on her own, and her cardiac malformation was less severe than projected. Still the family spent 3 weeks in the hospital’s NICU to monitor her condition and evaluate her need for surgery. “We discovered that Mia’s had complex cardiac anatomy along with the hole in hear heart. Dr. Christo Tchervenkov explained that her case could be repaired with just one surgery as opposed to multiple, as we had been told may be the case before her birth.”

On May 7th, 2019, at 7 months old, Mia underwent a life-saving total repair of the hole in her heart with Dr. Tchervenkov. The operation went smoothly, and today, Mia is a curious, happy and rambunctious 15-month old and proud older sister to her brother Isaac, who is 3 months old, and has no cardiac abnormalities. “She wakes up every day smiling and loves to be active,” says Sebastian. “We couldn’t ask for more.”

While she will continue to be followed by physiotherapy to monitor her motor skills in the short term, Mia is a thriving infant who loves to eat and is very active. “Because of her lengthy hospitalizations, she is taking a little bit longer to walk, but the team always tells us how well she is doing,” says Diana. Mia will also continue to be followed by her current pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Charles Rohlicek.

“I am so thankful to all the doctors, nurses and health professionals that we’ve encountered along this journey. We were given such little hope, but the staff members here truly helped give us reason to believe everything would be ok. Thanks to their expertise, my family and my faith, we are here today.”