HealthBeat 4: Heart defect impacts Siouxland youngster - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

HealthBeat 4: Heart defect impacts Siouxland youngster

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) - A congenital heart defect is a malformation in the heart that's present at birth. It can happen during the early stages of pregnancy when the heart is still developing. The American Heart Association said at least nine of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. each year have a heart defect. One Siouxland family has spent the past few years fighting the stigma that surrounds this type of defect.

"I love her a whole bunch. I could have no other sister like her," said Kailynne Spates, Alaina's big sister.

On the outside, Alaina Martinez walks, talks and acts like your typical three-year-old, but it's what's on the inside that makes this toddler unique.

When her mother was 31 weeks pregnant, doctors diagnosed Alaina with a congenital heart defect called hypo-plastic left heart syndrome, which means the left side of her heart was not developing.

"At first I was really angry, I didn't understand it," said Sarah Spates, Alaina's mom.

The night before she was suppose to go in for a scheduled c-section, Sarah Spates went into labor.

"We didn't know for sure if she would survive birth," said Dana Limoges, Alaina's grandma.

She did and when it was time to take Alaina home, Spates began to worry.

"I knew how to take care of a baby. I've done it before, twice, successfully. They're both healthy. And then I got her home and I wasn't sure what to expect or what to think," said Spates.

Spates said those first 12 months were the hardest. Alaina had her first open heart surgery at four-days-old and again at four-months-old.

"We didn't know for sure if she would survive the first surgery. In fact, she crashed before she went into the first surgery and we were holding our breaths until she came out," said Limoges.

Worried about taking her to public places because of the germs, Alaina's mom said she started isolating the family.

"Things were just different. We didn't go out as much that summer and do as many things," said Spates.

However, after that first year, Spates started feeling better.

"I got less worried that something was going to happen," said Spates.

Now at three-years-old, Spates said Alaina exuberates everything that's not sick.

I forget sometimes that she has this going on because she's just so happy," said Spates.

Even though she has a heart condition, Alaina is just a typical three-year-old.

"We fight with potty training," said Spates. "We fight with eating food at dinner."

"She's a demanding little sister, but I really love her with all my heart and all my soul. It really helps to have her with me because she's such an inspiration to me," said Broden Spates, Alain's big brother.

Alaina's mom doesn't want you to feel sorry for her daughter because she has a heart condition.

"When's she's seven, I don't want them to go, 'oh yeah Alaina, well we let her do this at school because she has a heart condition.' She doesn't need that. That's not going to teach her to be a better person. So I just want her to be treated like anyone," said Spates.

"Your only limited to what you limit yourself to. So we just don't limit her," said Spates.

"Her limits are only what she sets for herself," said Limoges.

"It has changed us in a lot of ways." said Spates. "It's made me see thing a lot different, but we are blessed that it is not worse."

Alaina's family said it's important to spread the word about congential heart defects, so people better understand the disease. Alaina goes in next month to get another sonogram done of her heart. Her family hopes this summer will be her third and final surgery.

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