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On The Mark
On the Mark is published three-times-a-year by the CHOC Foundation. It features patient highlights, physician spotlights, news about major gifts and upcoming events, construction updates, and fundraising stories and is mailed to donors who support CHOC with a gift of $50 and more.

A Fragile Beginning Strengthens Young Girl's Heart

From the moment their daughter Olivia was born, Alejandro and Diane Llamas’ lives became an unexpected emotional whirlwind. “When Olivia was delivered, she didn’t cry like normal babies, and her coloring was bluish-gray,” Diane recalls. “Her nurses quickly realized her heart wasn’t beating, and immediately began performing CPR on her. Then, a nurse asked me if I wanted a priest to baptize Olivia. It was in this state of utter shock and disbelief that I realized my baby was dying.”

“Her doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Olivia, so they called Children’s Hospital of Orange County, where CHOC neonatologists diagnosed her over the phone,” Diane continues.

Olivia’s condition was difficult to detect in newborns and impossible to prevent. Her blood vessels had not properly developed in one chamber of her heart. Blood was being pumped into her lungs, but it wasn’t being pumped out.

Within hours, Olivia was transferred to CHOC, where she immediately underwent heart surgery. “Her heart stopped beating several times while she was being transported to CHOC,” Diane recalls. “I literally fell on the floor crying with grief.”

At eight pounds and one ounce, Olivia was put on an artificial heart and lung machine. Within 12 hours of birth, doctors at CHOC began the delicate heart procedure that would save her life. Doctors slowed her metabolic rate, almost stopping her circulation. Once the surgery was completed, Olivia’s chest was kept open to allow for the swelling in the organs to go down enough to be closed.

“Just days earlier, I had been awaiting the birth of my perfect, pink little baby girl, Diane says. “And there I was, looking down into her open chest cavity, watching her tiny heart beat; it was completely surreal.”

Dr. Richard Gates of the CHOC Heart Institute said the timing of her life-saving surgery was critical. Had it taken place one hour later, it would’ve jeopardized Olivia’s life. He calls Olivia a “fighter.”

“Olivia is a true miracle child. She brings life and laughter to everyone she meets. We are so blessed to have her in our lives,” says a very grateful Diane.

Thanks to the experts at CHOC, today Olivia is a healthy, thriving 8-year-old who enjoys playing soccer, boogie boarding and watching Hannah Montana. Proving her strength the first hours of her life, Olivia is sure to conquer even more in the future.


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chocChildren's Hospital of Orange County | UCI University of California, Irvine

Children's Hospital of Orange County is affiliated with UC Irvine Healthcare and UC Irvine School of Medicine

CHOC Children's - 1201 W La Veta Ave, Orange, CA. Phone: 714-997-3000. .