Girl, 2, With 'Half a Heart' Who Spent 700 Days in Hospital To Have First Christmas at Home

A two-and-half-year-old girl who was born with a rare, congenital heart defect and has spent most of her short life hospital will be celebrating her first Christmas at home this year.

Valentina Garnetti was born in May 2019 at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.

Prenatally, doctors had diagnosed her with hypoplastic left heart syndrome—a complex birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. As the baby develops during pregnancy, the left side of the heart does not form properly, leaving it critically underdeveloped and unable to perform the job of providing blood flow to the entire body.

"She was born with a congenital heart defect," her mother, Francesca Garnetti, told Fox 2 Detroit. "It's basically half a heart."

Valentina Garnetti ended up spending the first 694 days of her life in hospital as a result of her condition.

Since being born, the child has undergone a total of six operations, including four open heart surgeries, the first of which she had when she was just two days old.

In addition to her major surgeries, the toddler has suffered several serious complications, including strokes, seizures, and severe allergic reactions. At one point, she was even placed on life support for 14 days.

"It was hard. I don't think anybody ever thinks they'll spend a long time in the hospital, let alone 694 days," mother Francesca Garnetti said.

The mother told a Michigan Health blog that Mott was "the only home she knew" and that everyone there became her "family." One nurse was even named as her godmother.

"These people are so special to her and to me. She truly loves them," Garnetti said. "They were everything to us during that time. They never gave up on Valentina."

The mother said at some points, it was not clear whether her daughter would even have a future outside of the hospital. "It was terrifying."

But on March 24, 2021, the child was finally released from hospital, receiving claps and cheers from staff on her way out.

"I felt every emotion you could possibly think of—she'd spent her entire life at the hospital with people she loved and who were always there to take care of her. There was overwhelming happiness, but it was also so scary," Garnetti said. "I was worried about being able to take as good care of her at home."

While there have been some setbacks since then, and she continues to rely on feeding and oxygen tubes, her mother said she is doing well.

"We didn't know if Valentina would ever be able to come out of hospital, so now that she's out and happy and doing well medically, it's amazing," Francesca Garnetti told Fox 2.

The family is now excited for the child to spend her first Christmas at home in Riverview, Michigan.

"We are going to do everything we can—drive around to see Christmas lights, visit Santa, watch Christmas movies on the couch together—all the things kids look forward to this time of year that we don't take for granted now," her mom told the Michigan Health blog.

"It's just going to be so amazing to be outside the hospital and together as a family, watching my girls experience this day together and celebrating all of the love and happiness."

A little girl at Christmas
Stock image showing a little girl at Christmas. A two-and-half-year-old girl who was born with a rare, congenital heart defect and has spent most of her life hospital will be celebrating her first Christmas at home this year. iStock