From Heartbreak to Heartbeat

July 14, 2016

The birth of a child is a joyous occasion. However, sometimes the joy turns to unexpected heartbreak. In 2006 Ava Ihle, daughter of Donatelle’s Vice President of Accounting and Finance Chad Ihle and wife Stacy, was born with a life threatening congenital heart defect known as Transportation of the Great Arteries (TGA).

TGA occurs when the two main arteries going out of the heart – the pulmonary artery and the aorta – are switched in position, or transposed. The result is too little oxygen in the blood that is pumped from the heart to the rest of the body. Before her first birthday, Ava had undergone two open heart surgeries at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.

Ava led a normal life, but in 2015 the Ihle’s noticed her endurance was waning. An MRI discovered she had an obstruction in her left coronary artery that didn’t allow blood to flow to the left side of her heart. Ava’s cardiologist and other specialists were puzzled by how she was even alive and required Ava to stop all activities. Her heart shouldn’t be beating without the coronary supplying blood to the heart muscle. An angiogram revealed her body had actually created ancillary arteries from her right coronary to the left side of her heart. Unfortunately, the ancillary arteries could not sustain enough blood flow, which explained Ava’s growing fatigue.

In October 2015, as a nine-year-old, Ava underwent her third open heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital. The “dream team” of Dr. del Nido, Chief Surgeon at Boston Children’s, and Dr. Marx, Cardiologist, performed a complex corrective surgery. The Ihle’s were thankful the team at Boston Children’s Hospital accepted Ava’s case as both are well-known and respected in their trade and attract surgeons and doctors from around the world to watch and learn as they save and improve lives. The surgery was very successful and eight weeks later Ava had fully recovered and was able to be an active child participating in all the activities she enjoys.

The importance of having Children’s Hospital in the community is something the Ihle’s experienced firsthand. With a desire to support Children’s Hospitals and others in need, they became involved with HeartBeat 5000, which supports the cardiovascular program of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. The employees of Donatelle truly embrace and live our Purpose Statement We create possibilities to improve quality of life for humankind, one person at a time. So, Donatelle jumped onboard and Team Donatelle …Making Strides for Ava was formed. Now in its 10th year, through donations, participation fees and sponsoring the water station at the walk, Ava’s team has once again raised over $10,000.

We’ve had the privilege of watching Ava grow into a beautiful, healthy, and energetic young lady. Not surprisingly, Ava has caught the eye of many others – she was recently featured in a segment of WCCO-TV’s Kylie’s Kids, hosted by Kylie Bearse. We invite you to click on the link provided to view the segment that was broadcast on June 27, 2016, to learn more about Ava and her journey.

Kylie’s Kids: Meet Ava