In late 2013, 12-year-old Jessica was diagnosed with an atrial septal defect and was informed that she needed open heart surgery. Doctors went in and repaired a valve in her heart, which, unfortunately, lead to more complications. The attempted surgery resulted in a complete heart block, and Jessica now needed a pacemaker.
Jessica was nominated for the Hero of the Month award by Mercy Hospital – Des Moines, where she had both surgeries. The Child Life Specialist who nominated her said, “Jessica had a positive attitude since day one. She was always willing to try her hardest and give anything a chance. She was always smiling and eager to talk to staff that were helping her; Jessica was a trooper during her hospitalization.”
Since her award and surgeries, Jessica has been doing extremely well! We caught up with our Hero and her mother 10 months after being honored:
KWN: Were you excited to be honored as a Hero of the Month?
Jessica: “Yes, I was very excited; I never thought I would get picked for something like that!”
KWN: As her mother, what was your reaction to her recognition for the award?
Stephanie, Jessica’s mother: “I was amazed that a girl from Bloomfield, Iowa, would be a Hero of the Month. I was very proud that others were recognizing her good attitude and strength.”
KWN: What has Jessica been up to lately?
Stephanie: “This summer, Jessica was lucky enough to receive sponsorship to help her go to a children’s congenital heart defect camp in California.”
KWN: What was your favorite part of Camp Taylor?
Jessica: “Camp Taylor was amazing. I met so many people and new friends. My favorite part was meeting all the people and going to the lake.”
Stephanie: “While we were out there, we went to Yosemite National Park, and Jessica asked me to take a picture of her with her Kids Wish Network HERO shirt on.”
KWN: Why did you want to wear your Hero shirt in photos?
Jessica: “I wanted to wear the shirt in pictures because I was proud that I won the shirt, and I thought you would like to see pictures of me with it on. I’m proud that I can do all of these things.”
Stephanie: “She absolutely cherishes [her shirt]. She said that is a pretty big deal that she was able to hike about the park like a normal kid.”
KWN: How is your health currently?
Jessica: “My health is pretty good. I still can’t do some things like play contact sports, but I’m doing good.”
Stephanie: “You would never know that she ever had anything done if you were around her. She’s pretty inspiring to all of us, and she really does realize how lucky she is to be doing great now.
KWN: What does Jessica have planned for her future?
Stephanie: “Since she was 4 years old, Jessica has said she wants to be a pediatrician; she only waivers from that when she thinks she wants to be a pediatric nurse. Jessica loves being around children and always talks about wanting several of her own.”
Cont…: “In the near future, she’s mainly concerned about normal 13-year-old girl things like making it through 8th grade. And she’s actually starting an Entertainment Drive at her middle school to donate DVD’s and video games to the pediatric unit in the Child Life Department where she had her surgery.”
Jessica is a shining example of what it means to be a Hero of the Month, and we know she has a bright future ahead of her! We’re excited to share Jessica’s amazing story, and proud to honor her as our HERO!