Miracle Monday: 10-year-old overcomes third open-heart surgery

SPOKANE, Wash. — Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital is a leader in health care, drawing families from all across the Pacific Northwest for the top-notch care they offer. In many ways, this institution is able to offer state-of-the-art care, thanks to some very generous donors. Philanthropy plays a big role in the hospital’s ability to offer exceptional care, for residents of our community- and beyond.

Grace Sotka was born with a congenital abnormality in the blood vessels above her heart. Fortunately, for her family, who lives in Idaho, they had Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital close enough to help. Her mom, Crystal Conners, said “They’ve saved her life more than once and we’re just blessed.”

Surgery for congenital heart disease is highly specialized, and several hospitals within the Northwest offer this care. Dr. Neil Worrall, who treated Grace, recognizes why she was so fortunate.

“I think what differentiates us from a couple of the other centers is the fact that we’re part of a large adults and children institution, which allows us to have seamless care from fetuses to infancy to adulthood.”

Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital offers life-long care, on the same campus, within the same institution. This continuity of care is a game-changer for patients like Sotka, who had her third open-heart surgery at only 10-years-old. With a condition like hers, this is to be expected.

“The initial aims of surgery back in the 70s and 80s was purely to have the child survive the surgery. That is almost a given these days in every case and we’re really focusing on the quality of life and the physical strength of children after their surgeries,” Dr. Worrall explained.

This kind of care is exactly what Grace has been given since day one when she had her first surgery.

The older Grace gets, the more she realizes the struggle she is going through.

“I tell her, we’re on a journey for a happy heart,” her mom said.

That journey would be a lot more complicated if not for donations that are made to the Children’s Miracle Network, which makes this kind of care possible.

“The interventions that we need to do, a lot of the ventilators, heart and lung machines, etc. are quite expensive and often go beyond the usual capabilities of hospital budgets,” Dr. Worrall said.

Doctors sometimes need special ventilators for the smallest newborns, like Grace Sotka once was, that are treated at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.

The staff at the hospital know that Grace’s grit will take her far in this fight.

“They love her because she’s feisty and she yells at them. They reassure her, it’s okay to be angry,” her mom said.

These days, that anger is shifted into bravery and courage to fuel her fight.

Conners told us her daughters asks, “She says, ‘why me?’ I say because you’re stronger than all of us.”

If you’d like to support programs like this right here in the Inland Northwest, you can donate to Children’s Miracle Network. Click here!

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