Toddler celebrates “ThanksLiving” with a big, if imperfect, heart

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — Every year, one in 100 babies are born with congenital heart disease. Here in the U.S. survival rate is high, but it’s in other countries where a diagnosis like CHD could mean a child’s life.

This Thanksgiving, thanks to a team of doctors from Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas and the big hearts of a non-profit, HeartGift, an energetic 3-year-old from the Philippines will celebrate her first Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Brandy is a toddler. And like any other girl her age, she’s energetic, sassy and loving. A love that comes from a big heart that is perfectly imperfect.

“I’m very scared every day of our life, I would just go to bed every night wondering maybe if she’ll live today or next month,” Bianca Pearson, Brandy’s mother says.

Back in her home country, doctors said Brandy would not live past 2 years old with her heart disease.

“When I had Brandy, she had multiple anomalies, she was revived I think 3-4 times maybe and then one time they said, next time we revive her, the next time she goes out on us, we will not revive her anymore,” Pearson says.

Pearson wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so May of this year she applied for medical help with the Austin non-profit, HeartGift and boy did they have a gift waiting.

Brandy received life-saving surgery from non-profit, HeartGift. (Courtesy/ HeartGift)
Brandy surrounded from left to right by Dell Children’s Medical doctors and her mother. (Courtesy: HeartGift)

“HeartGift is an organization that was actually started in Austin, and it brings kids from all over the world who are born with congenital heart defects and they bring them here and give them life-saving heart surgery,” Kathy Terry, a board member with HeartGift says.

HeartGift Partners up with Dell Children’s Medical Center where doctors and surgeons donate their time. Eight days ago, Brandy’s life changed forever. HeartGift donated their 300th life-saving surgery.

“Brandy had a condition called tetralogy of fallot or a variant of tetralogy of fallot, that’s where there’s obstruction of the blood flow going out to the lungs, and it’s the most common congenital heart defect resulting in blue babies,” says cardiologist Dr. Stuart Rowe says.

“Before the surgery, she had limited exercise tolerance, now she’s going to be able to run and play with normal exercise tolerance, interact with other kids, do sports,” Dr. Rowe explains.

Today is Brandy’s last cardiologist check-up before heading back to the Philippines. She’s headed back home with a scar, the only reminder of the toddler doctors once said wouldn’t survive.

“Looking at the results of the repair, shows an excellent repair, her heart function is very good,” Dr. Rowe says.

“Wow, I never see her do things like that, she would run up and down the stairs, and would go back and forth all the way around the house, so it’s a good feeling seeing your daughter that she’s fine,” Pearson says. “I’m just happy my child is finally well after all those years that are very scary.”

Fear is something this little one is saying goodbye to. A reason to give thanks on this holiday.

“Thank you, thank you all, thank you for fixing my heart,” Brandy said. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

HeartGift has chapters in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Louisiana.

Originally published by our Media General sister station in Austin, Texas, KXAN-TV