1 in 100, Kinley is a heart warrior

“My heart started to race. My husband and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes and rushed down the halls of Tucson Medical Center into the NICU.

Our team of heroes, TMC doctors and nurses, surrounded Kinley’s bassinet trying to get IV lines in to administer prostaglandin to keep Kinley alive.”

Stacy Lipinczyk retells those frightening moments that happened just over two years ago when daughter Kinley was a newborn.

Kinley, who was born at 41-weeks gestation on Nov. 23, 2014, appeared healthy at birth. Just two days later, as her parents got ready to take Kinley home, the nurses did a routine pulse-ox screening test.

“The first machine had conflicting results. The reading would jump from the 90s to 70s. The nurses brought in two more pulse-ox monitors, but the results didn’t change. My husband and I thought this can’t be right…Kinley looks great!

The nurses advised us that they wanted us to stay an additional night, and they would order an echo in the morning just to be sure everything was OK. We unpacked our room and didn’t sleep much that night.”

The following morning, while Kinley had her echocardiogram, the technician stopped and left the room. When the technician returned it was with the doctor to deliver the news that Kinley had a series of heart defects. The implication that those heart defects were serious became a reality quickly when Kinley began to turn gray, and the doctors and nurses crowded around to save her life.

Kinley was diagnosed with an interrupted aortic arch, ventricular septal defect (hole in the heart) and a bicuspid aortic valve.

Once the team of doctors and nurses were able to stabilize Kinley, she was life-flighted by helicopter to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“The life-flight nurse and respiratory therapist hugged and comforted me as I sobbed and begged to go in the helicopter with them. How was I going to give my brand-new baby girl over to someone whom I had never met? But there was not enough room in the helicopter as it is virtually a miniature hospital.”

There were a few speed bumps along the way, but Kinley had her life-saving open-heart surgery Dec. 3 when she was just 10 days old. She also had to have a heart catheterization to balloon her aortic arch a few months post-surgery.

Today, Kinley is 2 years old and continues to thrive. But like most children fighting a congenital heart defect, regular childhood illnesses have an increased risk to her cardiac health. A common cold or respiratory illness can present significant danger to her health. A viral infection earlier this year resulted in seizures and a PICU stay at TMC for Children for Kinley. Both Kinley’s mom, Stacy, and fellow heart mom Melissa share this message to other parents: “It’s important that Kinley and Killian’s friends remember to wash their hands, sneeze and cough into elbows, and update their flu shots!”

Melissa and Stacy’s message to fellow parents provides an action every one of us can take to heart to protect those within our community fighting for every heartbeat. This Valentine’s Day take a pledge to play your role in protecting heart warriors like Kinley and Killian by preventing infections.

Stacy is the cofounder of CHD Families of Tucson which provides support for families facing the challenges of congenital heart defects. 

congenital heart defect support in tucson organization