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Armaneigh was born a beautiful, healthy baby on November 6, 2021. “By 6 months old, she was pulling herself up to stand, was crawling, and was on her way to walking,” recalls Armaneigh’s mom, Tianna. “She possessed all the qualities a mother could love.”
At about 9 months old, Armaneigh caught what seemed like a normal cold. But when Armaneigh struggled to breathe, Tianna took her to the emergency department near their home in Modesto. An echocardiogram revealed that Armaneigh’s heart was enlarged, and she needed specialized cardiac care—urgently. The local care team reached out to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.
“That afternoon, my baby was airlifted to Stanford,” says Tianna.
Our Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center team diagnosed Armaneigh with dilated cardiomyopathy and delivered the shocking news that she needed a heart transplant. Thankfully, our Heart Center is renowned for pediatric heart transplant care and outcomes. Since our hospital’s first heart transplant nearly four decades ago, our care teams have performed more than 500 transplants. This number is higher than nearly any other children’s hospital in the United States.
Our hospital also has a very successful Pediatric Advanced Cardiac Therapies (PACT) program that helps children with failing hearts survive what can sometimes be a years-long wait for a transplant. Sometimes donor hearts are not immediately available.
“The PACT program at Packard Children’s brings together expertise in cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and heart transplantation to offer our patients the best pathway through an incredibly challenging time in their lives,” explains David Rosenthal, MD, professor of pediatric cardiology at the Stanford School of Medicine and director of the PACT team.
Armaneigh underwent surgery to receive a ventricular-assist device called a Berlin Heart that pumped blood through her body as she awaited transplant. It was a lot for a 10-month-old to undergo, but Tianna was in awe of her daughter’s fortitude.
“She was so resilient through the procedures,” Tianna says.
The PACT team focused on building Armaneigh’s strength for what lay ahead. During their hospital stay, Armaneigh’s mom pulled her in a wagon with her Berlin Heart accompanying her, often stopping to enjoy a colorful cow sculpture made from thousands of children’s toys.
Unfortunately, Armaneigh’s health took a turn when she experienced three strokes. Rosenthal ensured that Tianna had an opportunity to ask questions, express fears and frustrations, and receive the support she needed to be there for Armaneigh in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU).
“At Stanford, it’s about the patient and the family,” Tianna says. “Dr. Rosenthal is the most kindhearted man. He took the time to build my trust and make me feel comfortable after going through so many hurdles with Armaneigh’s strokes. I appreciate that he stopped by to check on us even when it wasn’t his day to be on service.
As Armaneigh’s health improved, she and her mom participated in a Donate Life Month ceremony in our Dawes Garden, planting pinwheels in honor of the dozens of Packard Children’s patients awaiting organ transplants.
“Before all of this, I didn’t know that much about organ donation—about donating life,” Tianna says. “But now I have met so many people whose lives have been saved, and I am so grateful to the people who make the decision to donate life.”
The call came in June. After 292 days, Tianna received word that a heart was ready for Armaneigh. The team jumped into action.
“Armaneigh’s family has overcome so much since I met them just over a year ago,” says Heart Center social worker Megan Miller, MSW. “Armaneigh had a long wait for transplant, but her mom and her medical team remained committed to her health and well-being. It was this commitment and strength that got Armaneigh to where she is today.”
When Armaneigh and Tianna finally left the hospital after 341 days, the care team that had become their second family lined the halls waving pompoms to cheer them on.
“Armaneigh hit so many milestones in the hospital, and the team was there for all of them,” Tianna says. “Sydnee, the recreation coordinator in the playroom, brought us so much joy. The PCU 200 and CVICU teams showered us with love. You can tell that for the nurses, this is not just a job. And Dr. Kaufman has really been through the wringer with us.”
Tianna credits Beth Kaufman, MD, a clinical professor of pediatric cardiology and director of the hospital’s Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Program, with advocating for Armaneigh and being a source of strength and perspective.
Today Armaneigh is a bright-eyed little girl who is a joy to be around. She loves Minnie Mouse and singing along to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme music. “That’s her happy place,” Tianna says.
Thanks to support from donors and the hospital’s social services team, Armaneigh and Tianna are staying at the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford to be close to the hospital and her care team. Despite having many appointments to monitor Armaneigh’s new heart and ensure that there are no signs of organ rejection, Tianna is proud of how far her daughter has come.
“Watching Armaneigh face her challenges shows me that we have to be really grateful for our health,” Tianna says.
And she also expresses gratitude to our donor community.
“I’m a single mother who is enrolled in school,” Tianna says. “Without people who support the hospital, Armaneigh wouldn’t have qualified for her transplant. I want to say ‘thank you’ to donors for making a difference for my daughter and me.”
This year, Armaneigh is the face of our Year-End Giving Campaign. Your gifts to Packard Children’s Hospital ensure that children like Armaneigh have brighter futures and a second chance at life. Give today!