Tessa is two and a half years old. She loves blowing kisses and thinks her sister, Noelle, is the funniest person.
"She is the absolute happiest child in the world," said her mom, Courtney. "You would never be able to tell all that she's been through by looking at her."
Tessa has been through a lot in two short years. She spent all of her first holidays and first birthday in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
Her family calls her a miracle baby.
Tessa was born with one of a kind heart. She had open-heart surgery at nine days old and again at ten days. At five months old, she went in for a heart catheterization procedure and had a heart attack and suffered multiple cardiac arrests.
Tessa needed a new heart.
After waiting eight months, there were complications with the transplant that left her in the PICU for another 11 months. In her short life, Tessa has already spent 18 months total in the hospital.
How did her family get through long hospitalizations?
"We decorated her room to make it look as homey as possible, cute crib sheets, pictures, I made her a cute bow board," Courtney said. "Anything to make her medical environment look normal helped us a lot. We couldn't really dress her because of the machine she was hooked up to, but cute hair bows and hospital gowns were how we dressed up, Tessa!"
And that's where Starlight comes in.
Starlight delivers happiness to seriously ill kids, like Tessa, and their families. Starlight Hospital Gowns, Gaming stations, Virtual Reality headsets, and so much more allow hospitalized kids to still feel like kids.
Approximately 40,000 babies are born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) every year in the U.S. About a third of them will need surgery or other medical treatment during their first few weeks of life.
There is no cure for CHD, and many children undergo multiple heart surgeries that require long hospitalizations.
So, what does the future look like for Tessa?
While she has a normal heart now, there is a lot the family has to do to keep her healthy because she is immunocompromised. She will take anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life and still has many pulmonary arteries issues.
"As of now, we have no planned heart surgeries," said Courtney. "Tessa will eventually need another transplant; you never know when. Her heart could last for 30 years, or she could develop issues and need one next month, we don't know."
No matter the number of unknowns, her family is hoping for a long, bright future. Tessa is working on catching up on missed milestones and working on standing and walking soon!