Ambassador Highlight: Meet McKenna

Published: December 20th, 2016

Category: CMN Ambassador Stories, For the Kids, Patient Stories

Just by looking at her, you would never know that McKenna was diagnosed — while still in utero — with multiple complex congenital heart defects. Her family was told to expect the unexpected at best, and at worst, that McKenna might not live for very long.

But the pediatric heart specialists at UF Health created an action plan for McKenna that began the moment she arrived to give her the very best chance to survive and thrive. When McKenna was born in November 2008, she proved to be up to the challenge.

McKenna spent a significant portion of her first six months in the hospital. In spring 2009, McKenna had her first open heart surgery and had recovered by late summer. Although she had some initial challenges, like chewing and learning to talk, her life and that of her family has only improved since her early days at UF Health.

With the exception of three heart catheterizations in 2013, McKenna has had no additional surgeries, and today she is a happy, inquisitive and active 8-year-old who enjoys tap dancing, Tae Kwan Do, painting and anything Disney. While she will likely need future interventions, which might include a heart transplant, McKenna is living well and loving life. Even with a baseline oxygen saturation level of about 85 percent (normal levels are closer to 100 percent), she keeps up with her classmates and is full of energy. She is courageous, kind and loves adventures.

Her family thanks God every day for blessing them with the world-class health care McKenna receives at UF Health. The doctors, nurses and health care professionals that make up “Team McKenna” have become an extension of their family.

McKenna and her family moved to Gainesville in 2014, in part to be closer to the team at UF Health. Now that they are settled, they are excited about what lies ahead and about sharing their story with others as an Ambassador Family.

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