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Never Count Them Out: Heart Warrior Kid Shows Her Strength

Although Brandy Spradlin’s pregnancy was high risk and she had nearly 30 sonograms during the course of it, she and her husband had no idea that anything would be out of the ordinary when their daughter was born. The Sibley doctor who saw Charli Jane within hours of Brandy’s birth said five different things were going on with her heart, and she had a 99.9 percent chance of having the chromosomal abnormality, 22q Deletion Syndrome. She was life flighted to Egleston from Piedmont Fayette Hospital.

“My youngest was 12 at the time,” Brandy said. “Our other three kids had never even been sick, beyond the occasional strep throat. We were taken by complete surprise.”

Charli had her first heart surgery at just five days old and another at 7 months to treat her multiple diagnoses of Interrupted Aortic Arch + VSD, Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis, and Branch Pulmonary Artery Stenosis . Now 9, she will likely need more surgeries as she grows, but doctors say her current heart repairs may last until middle school.

Brandy says that Charli’s pediatric cardiologist, Heather Phelps, MD, goes above and beyond for her family. Charli is comfortable at her cardiology appointments with Dr. Phelps, asking questions and eager to help.

“Dr. Phelps is phenomenal with Charli,” Brandy said. “She’s straight to the point and doesn’t sugarcoat things, and I like that. The staff treats Charli like a little superstar, and she acts like she owns the place. After her own appointment, she comes home and has cardiology appointments for all her siblings.”

Brandy appreciates how Sibley doctors and staff are highly knowledgeable and willing to answer her questions. She relies on their personalized care and their responsiveness when she needs them.

Sibley has never let me down,” Brandy said. “They’ve always gotten in touch with me quickly when I’ve had an emergency with Charli or questions about her health. When you’re new to all this, you don’t know if your questions are silly or if you’re bothering them, but they’ve never made me feel bad, and they welcome my questions and concerns.”

After a rough start in life, Charli Jane is now thriving at her special needs school, and she loves horses and animals. Her equine therapy sessions have led to having her own horse, which lives at her grandparents’ 26-acre farm. She will compete in the equestrian events in the Special Olympics in October.

Brandy has two pieces of advice for new heart parents. The first is to connect with the Sibley Heart Center family support group, Kids at Heart to find information and caring support from other people who are going through similar experiences. The second is to take everything one day at a time.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in worrying and stressing about what’s to come and what all this means for your child,” Brandy said. “But the truth is, where you are one week may be totally different from where you are the next week. It’s a roller coaster. Ask as many questions as you can. You are your child’s advocate. You have to stand up for them. And remember when they say ‘heart warrior,’ it’s because these kids are strong and they’re fighters. Never count them out.”

For more information about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.

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