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FAMILY STORY: Gabriella

With rosy cheeks and a bright smile Gabriella is the epitome of sugar and spice and everything nice. But Gabriella, or G as her parents call her, has a little spitfire in her as well! She is a fighter.

At just four she would be formally diagnosed with Restrictive Cardiomyopathy, a rare heart defect that restricts blood flow to the heart.

Her mother Kristi explained that a heart transplant was the only way to ensure Gabriella, “would start school, experience recess, face peer pressure, learn to drive, graduate from high school, choose a career and pursue it, meet her soul mate, have babies... or even change the world!”

Unfortunately, getting on the heart transplant list isn’t exactly quick or easy. Less than one month before she was to be listed, stagnant blood in her stiffened heart caused Gabriella to stroke.

Gabriella spent the next three weeks in recovery at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and her parents, Kristi and Paul, were determined to be at their daughter’s side every day. Unable to afford a hotel, this meant several hours commuting every day. It was time they could have spent with their little princess.

Fortunately for Gabriella's family, the Ronald McDonald House was there for them when they needed it. For three weeks, they called the Ronald McDonald House “Home.” Kristi describes, “the room was comfortable and calm, unlike the inside of the hospital walls.  Having a place to take a warm and quiet shower was like winning the lottery. The big comfy couches in the living room gave us five minutes of normalcy and allowed us to relax on something more than a hard recliner sleeper.”

After Gabriella’s release, the family returned home. On May 17, 2010 (on their way to drop
off supplies they had collected for the Ronald McDonald House) Kristi got the call. A heart
had been found for Gabriella!

Now 5, Gabriella will tell you that the “doctors made her heart sparkly.”

The famiy recently returned from Loma Linda, CA where the transplant was performed. Doctors  here in Phoenix will continue to monitor Gabriella’s “sparkly” new heart. Now that they are home, Gabriella's family has a spot in their hearts for the “house that love built.” The Ronald McDonald House was there for them when they needed it most and they plan on volunteering whenever they can.

McNight Logo Were were honored to have the Gabriella's family join us to share their experience at our McNight gala in 2010! Click here see their pictures and read Kristi's very touching blog about the evening.