MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- At just six years old, Elise Hales has already experienced heart surgery.
Despite all the difficulty last year brought, her family credits Valley Children's Hospital for comprehending them through.
In November of 2019, Elise went in for a normal checkup.
No symptoms... only a troubling observation.
"While we were there, her pediatrician was listening to her heart and heard, a 'clicking sound,' is the way he described it," said Jennifer Hales, Elise's mother.
The doctor sent Elise to Valley Children's for an EKG. The EKG led to a CAT scan. The CAT scan to an Angiogram.
In the end, the doctors found that that "clicking" noise was a heart defect known as PAPVR.
"Basically, her right atrium was enlarging because instead of the blood and oxygen going to the rest of her body, it was just going back into her heart," Hales said.
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From there, Elise and her family prepared for surgery.
Then the pandemic hit, adding more uncertainty to what was already a difficult journey.
"When COVID happened, and things started to shut down, we didn't know if they were going to continue with surgery or not, but they communicated with us really well about what was gonna happen, and because things were progressing in the wrong direction, they wanted to move forward with the surgery," Hales said.
Amid these trials, the exceptional care provided by Valley Children's staff became a lifeline for Elise and her family.
"The entire experience was extremely positive. The way they communicated with Elise and spoke to her directly, and gave her that confidence and calmness really helps her still want to be there all the time," Hales said. "She still says, 'Are we going to Valley Children's?'"
Elise is now in outpatient care, getting regular checkups. She's also this year's Kids Day ambassador.
Despite what she's been through, she maintained a contagious joy.
"I'm so glad the surgery didn't change her spunky and silly personality," Hales said.
Click here to support Valley Children's Hospital during Kids Day 2021.