RIVERVIEW, Mich. (WXYZ) — It was an emotional day in the halls of University of Michigan's CS Mott Children's Hospital on March 24, when a longtime beloved patient finally left the only home she's really known since birth.
Little Valentina of Riverview was born with a congenital heart condition that required feeding and oxygen tubes and several open-heart surgeries. It's a condition that even now, requires specialized care and regular hospital visits.
We first spoke with Valentina's mom, Francesca Garnetti back in May.
“She was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, it's pretty much half of a heart," Francesca explained.
It's a situation only made more challenging by a global pandemic; the rest of Valentina's family, especially her two sisters, haven't been able to visit her as they would have in a non-COVID era.
Now, the three girls are all home together.
“It’s so amazing. I mean, I thought some days it would never happen and so now that it finally is here it’s like a dream come true," Francesca said, holding baby Valentina at home.
After 694 days inside the four walls of her hospital room, Valentina is now enjoying everyday things for the very first time.
Even a simple stroller ride outdoors is an adventure.
The sweet little girl from Riverview who stole our hearts last year is FINALLY HOME! 👏👏👏— Jenn Schanz (@JennSchanzWXYZ) April 4, 2021
Valentina spent nearly 700 days @MottChildren due to a congenital heart condition. She's now reunited with her sisters ♥️♥️
Her journey & what this step means tonight on @wxyzdetroit pic.twitter.com/22HWZnUdp9
“She just looks around and you can see the awe and wonder," Francesca said. "It’s just all the new things she’s never seen before.”
According to the CDC, 1 out of every 3,841 babies in the U.S. is born with Valentina's condition every year. Many treatment plans include open-heart surgeries, but those aren't a cure. Some cases require a heart transplant.
Francesca remembers the days she had to face the possibility of a worst-case scenario.
“There’s a transition room at Mott that kids can go in to pass away, and I got a tour of that room," she said. "You know Valentina’s a fighter, and here we are."
It's a place Francesca said they simply wouldn't be without the care and knowledge of staff at Mott; people who became more like family over the past nearly 700 days.
“I know she misses them and it’s different, and it’s something we have to get used to but when we go to clinic visits we can always stop and say hi. And that’s a good way to say hi, from the outside world," Francesca told 7 Action News.
People all over the country and the world have seen Valentina's journey. Francesca has shared the highs and the lows all through Facebook as a way to spread awareness for congenital heart conditions and to keep everyone's spirits up, including her own.
“I get so many messages, so many texts, so many calls," Francesca said.
She said the outpouring of support has been overwhelming.
There's still a long road ahead for Valentina, who has a nurse that comes to her home twice a week to check on her, and several heart and sub-specialties at Mott she'll continue to see as an outpatient.
“They said that Valentina is a legacy they’ll never forget her. I mean two years is a long time how could you?" Francesca said.
The family's plan for now is to make up for lost time with Valentina and to spend as much time outside this summer as possible.
To learn more about Valentina's Journey, click here.