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Pablo and Damaris Sánchez found out they were having a little girl 20 weeks into their pregnancy. But the exciting news took an unfortunate turn when they were informed that their baby, soon to be named Nataly, had a critical Congenital Heart Defect (CHD). The aorta in Nataly’s heart was narrower than usual and was diagnosed as a coarctation of the aorta. This could lead to normal or high blood pressure in the head and arms, and lower blood pressure and weak pulses in the legs and lower body. Fortunately, a corrective surgery could be performed immediately after birth.

When Nataly came into the world on July 9, 2020, doctors discovered the true extent of Nataly’s condition: she had a hole on the left side of her heart and a rare condition called Anomalous Left Coronary Artery from the Pulmonary Artery (ALCAPA), which required emergency surgery. At just one week old, Nataly would have to undergo not one, but two life-saving surgeries.

Luckily, they were in the best hands. Nataly was being treated in the Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, one of the leading pediatric heart centers in the nation. While Nataly was being taken care of, our hospital also brought comfort to the Sánchez family over the next six months. Even though their three-year-old son, Pablo Jr., couldn’t be in the hospital due to COVID-19 protocols, our Child Life and Creative Arts team helped from afar, providing books and resources to help big brother understand what was happening with his baby sister.

“The plan was for her to get strong,” says her father, Pablo.  

Nataly did get stronger—five months after she was born, she was extubated from her breathing tube, and six months later she left the hospital with her family. The Sánchez family is forever grateful for Nataly’s care team of doctors and nurses who cheered them on as they departed from our hospital and home to meet her big brother for the first time

“It was the team effort that pulled us together and faith that everything was going to work out,” says Pablo, “We are fortunate enough to bring Nataly home.”

Nataly’s fight continues—she will need further monitoring and frequent visits to our hospital. But for now, the Sánchez family is grateful to be home all together and are excited to Scamper with us on June 18.

Nataly’s strength, her family’s faith, and her care team at Packard Children’s Hospital helped her persevere through many complications, including low blood pressure, blood clots, and a stomach infection. Through the various care team members and specialists at our hospital, the Sánchez’s were comforted in knowing that Nataly and themselves were being looked after and loved.

“We had the privilege to have Dr. Katsuhide Maeda perform her first two surgeries, and Dr. Michael Ma performed a 15-hour surgery to fix the rest of the conditions with her heart. The staff got us through everything,” says Pablo, “We are grateful to have had Dr. Meghna Patel as our primary attending doctor. She always gave us hope that everything is going to be fine.”

Pablo and Damaris were comforted at the thought that Nataly was in good hands, and though they felt supported by their family and community at home, the emotional pressure and the physical constraints of the pandemic still weighed heavily on their minds.

“We are fortunate enough to have our bubble of family that we could see. For six months, [our son] Pablo was going from house to house.” Pablo recalls, “No one else could be at the hospital, just my wife and me. It was hard.”

Through your generous donations to our hospital, patients like Nataly can receive world-class care, while their family can be comforted during the most challenging moments of their lives.

“As a father who went through this ordeal,” says Pablo, “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart because what all these programs do at Stanford are extremely helpful. They help families like us—they helped me out.”