Leah Flannery, age 6 (7 on 9/22/15)
written by her mom, Jodi Flannery
Almost seven years ago, Leah was born with complex congenital heart disease that required immediate medical attention upon her first breath. At a routine ultrasound during our third pregnancy, a deathly low heart rate was discovered (70bpm). We were sent to a pediatric cardiologist and her slew of defects were defined and monitored for the rest of our pregnancy. That low heart rate wouldn’t budge and threatened to take her life before she was born but she continued to grow and and so did my belly. In my third trimester, her heart rate miraculously jumped up to 120bpm and then we knew we would be bringing home our first baby girl. The little sister to two big brothers. Leah Jeanelle Flannery. In her first few weeks of life she required two dangerous open heart surgeries and six weeks of intensive care at Mercy Children’s Hospital. She barely escaped with her fragile newborn life before returning for another major open heart operation at nine months old. For the last six years, our brave girl has endured countless appointments, procedures, interventions, scans, medications and therapies. She fights through it all with a spirit and fearlessness matched by other heart kids, the 1 in 100 born with the most specialized, terrifying disease. Most recently, Leah received a pacemaker because of symptomatic, irreversible arrhythmias. As is always possible with CHD, her case presented certain complications that have introduced new challenges requiring close monitoring that will inevitably lead to another major heart operation in the coming year. She is starting first grade in just a few short weeks, and in all honesty, learning is proving to be a whole different challenge. She is enrolled in the Ames School District and has a compassionate, dedicated team that serves Leah’s unique learning disabilities through a well-defined IEP (special education plan). But Leah meets life with a fantastic attitude and an energy that draws people into her story and the plight of congenital heart disease. She’s a swimmer, a cartwheeler, a reader and a self-proclaimed trapeze artist. Foremost, she is a hero. A 1 in 100. And we promise to never stop fighting for her big, unstoppable life.