A Fighting Spirit- Emilee's Story of Heart and Spine - Nemours Blog


A Fighting Spirit- Emilee’s Story of Heart and Spine

If resilience had a name, it would be that of 12-year-old Emilee. She was born with a complex heart defect called single ventricle that required heart surgery when she was just 2 days old. Her fighting spirit endured through three more heart surgeries and several heart catheterizations.

Her heart surgeon, Dr. Christian Pizarro, assisted by cardiac anesthesiologist, Dr. Ellen Spurrier, and their highly specialized team—cared for her–watching over Emilee day and night. It was a scary and unsettling time for her family, who stayed right by her side. Through it all, Emilee thrived.

But her health challenges continued.  Emilee was diagnosed with scoliosis that progressed to the point that surgery was needed.  In January 2022, she underwent a spinal fusion, a major surgery for anyone, but especially risky for someone with a single ventricle heart defect.

Pediatric spine surgeon, Dr. Peter Gabos, performed the complicated operation with Dr. Spurrier again in charge of anesthesia. Emilee recovered well and went home in record time. Her family was happy and grateful that Nemours Children’s Health had the special orthopedic and cardiac resources needed to care for their daughter.   

Today, Emilee has no limitations.  While she is shy, once comfortable, her smile can light up a room. She likes running and walking in the woods, enjoys karate and most of all, “sister-time.”

Guest Contributor

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