She may be small, but 12-year-old Kaitlyn Dove definitely has a big personality and a big heart. She is very passionate about helping others and has no problem striking a pose or belting out in song in the hallways of Dayton Children’s during a photo shoot. However, Kaitlyn’s life has been far from glamorous.
When Deniese Dove gave birth to Kaitlyn at Kettering Medical Center, she didn’t even have a chance to hold her before she was whisked away by the doctors. Denise was later given the news that her brand new baby girl would need heart surgery and only had one percent of her right lung. This certainly was not the news she had been expecting.
Because of her need for heart surgery, Kaitlyn spent the first three weeks of her life in the NICU at Cincinnati Children’s. At 2 weeks old she had her first of three heart surgeries to treat her Tricuspid Atresia, a type of disease where the tricuspid heart valve is missing or developed abnormally. Kaitlyn was also given stents and a balloon in her lung to help with her breathing.
Once Kaitlyn came home, she began to regularly see Joseph Ross, MD, medical director of cardiology at Dayton Children’s who worked closely with the surgeons in Cincinnati to continue her care and treatments. She was often at Dayton Children’s with complications including pneumonia and meningitis. At age 6 she underwent her third and final heart surgery. She was the first child ever to have this specific surgery with only one lung.
“Kaitlyn has done so well with everything, she knows that God has made her this way for a reason and she accepts it,” says her mother, Denise. “I call her my tough cookie because a lot of the times she’s stronger than I am. There are moments where I break down and she comforts me and says, ‘Mom, I’m fine now!’”
Beyond her heart and lung problems she sees other specialist at Dayton Children’s. Kaitlyn deals with hearing loss in her right ear, a curved spine and her neck growing slowly at a 90 degree angle. She also was diagnosed with hemihypertrophy which causes one side of her body to grow faster than the other. In order to make up for the difference she wears a shoe lift on her right foot.
“Her feet are different sizes so we always have to buy two pairs of the same shoe,” says Denise. “She usually can’t get the fun or trendy shoes because the lift can’t be put onto them.”
Although her childhood was full of hospital visits and surgeries, Kaitlyn has grown up to be a strong, confident and thankful sixth-grade girl who just wants to help others. She has participated in Jump for Heart, helping people with heart conditions, and has worked as an ambassador for Noah’s Ark, an organization that raises money for people needing transplants whose insurance won’t cover it.
“We don’t know what Kaitlyn’s future looks like because we’ve never dealt with this before” says Dr. Ross. “But if her will and her fight and her desire to go on is any indicator of how well she will do down the road then the outlook is positive.”
Kaitlyn has been through a lot of things that most girls her age could never even imagine, but self-pity is not in her vocabulary. Kaitlyn embraces life and ensures everyone around her does the same. This is why Kaitlyn has been chosen as a Dayton Children’s child ambassador.
“Sometimes it feels normal, but other times it is hard,” says Kaitlyn. “But when kids make fun of me or ask me why I’m this way I just tell them that God made me special!”
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