LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Throughout the next year News 19 will feature the five Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Heroes.
These children are battling a disease or defect, and receive support from CMN Hospitals. News 19's Lindsey Hayes is proud to introduce you to one of those heroes in a special Fairytale called "A Thankful Heart."
"Once upon a time there was a princess that lived in Bangor, Wisconsin. Her name was Emma Joy. she was sooo beautiful. She had big blue eyes, brown hair, and loved to wear fancy green dresses.
Life is a fairytale for four year old Emma Groll.
Emma confirms by saying, "I like to dress up like a princess."
Emma's mom, Liz, says, "She likes to look pretty, likes to wear my necklaces and my bracelets and her nails. She loves to have her nails painted."
This princess spends her days playing house with her sisters.
Emma's also pretty tough, and that's because when she was born, doctors diagnosed her with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
Susan MacLellan-Tobert of Gundersen Lutheran Pediatric Cardiology puts that into layman's terms for us and says, "This is the main pumping chamber that pumps blood to our body, and Emma was born with a very small left pumping chamber. So you can see that the whole side of the left heart was affected, and because of that she was not able to effectively get blood to the rest of her body.
Liz: "I was just so overwhelmed and so horrified that I just didn't know what to think or what to feel. And it was just the worst part of my life.
Justin Groll, Emma's day says, "What parent, or a dad especially, wants to see their 9 day old child being hauled through surgical doors not being able to do anything for her? But she's a fighter."
The hospital quickly became home. Emma endured three open heart surgeries in just three years.
Susan: "So the first part of the surgery involves using the right pumping chamber to become the main pump for the heart, and blood is then redirected to the aorta and out to the body after that surgery."
Liz: "So far, so good. They said that her body's doing really well, her oxygen's actually ninety right now, at ninety percent, which is amazing. She still has a hole in her heart which they'll possibly have to close at some point."
As Emma continues to heal, the Groll's say that faith, family and the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals have been knights in shining armor along the way.
Liz: "Always making sure that we had money, food to get back and forth from Milwaukee, and when we were in Milwaukee they sent us a $500 check. And, I mean, what a blessing that was."
Justin: "You name it, we had it there, and they provided it for us, so they're a great, great foundation to support. I would definitely say they're family."
And thanks to a few helping hands, Princess Emma can now dream big, laugh, love, and live out her fairytale.
Liz: "It's a miracle, like, seriously, it is an absolute miracle and an absolute joy to see her grow. I'm gonna cry. To see her grow up and do the normal things; it's really nice."
This princess's heart may be small, but it loves dearly and dreams so big, and her family is so thankful they get to live together forever and ever. And they get to have a happily ever after.
Emma will need a heart transplant later in life, or another open heart surgery. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 960 babies are diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome each year. The cause of most of these heart defects is unknown.
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