February 2019

Her future was bright. The sky was the limit. Until one day last December when it almost all came crashing down.

At only 14, Rome has big plans for her life. Rome is adamant she will be the first black female president of the United States, and anyone who meets her leaves with little doubt this young lady will accomplish everything she sets her mind to.

Rome was with her grandmother in their hometown of Austin when she began having difficulties breathing. Her grandmother took her to the hospital where doctors discovered she had fluid in her chest. Though Rome was born with a congenital heart defect that required two major surgeries before her first birthday, she hadn’t experienced any major problems since. Now, it appeared that her heart was getting weaker and weaker.

After two weeks of her health continuing to deteriorate, she was transferred to The Heart Center at Children’s Healthâ„  on Christmas Eve. Upon her arrival, the team determined her heart was no longer functioning properly. She was quickly assessed to see if she was a candidate for a heart transplant and was put on life support while the team searched for a lifeline.

Rome received the Impella device, a ventricular assist device typically used in adult patients, which kept her heart pumping. Children’s Health is a pioneer in using these types of devices in pediatrics.

“It has led to a trend across the country,” says Dr. Vivian Dimas, the pediatric interventional cardiologist who placed the VAD. “They are less invasive and can be placed quickly so we don’t have negative effects while waiting to become a transplant candidate.”

On Christmas Day, Rome was placed on the emergency heart transplant list as she and her family entered the hardest waiting period of her life.

“Her care team was amazing,” says Rome’s mom Robyn as she reflected on how Children’s Health helped them feel at home throughout the entire process. “They were very attentive, very caring.”

Rome got the call that would change her life just seven days later, on New Year’s Day. She had heart transplant surgery later that day with no complications and is now recovering well.

“I would really like to tell everyone that helped Rome from her transplant coordinator to her physical therapist, her nurses and everyone that was at Children’s Health that helped us, ‘Thank you,’” says Robyn. “They were amazing. They did an awesome job.”

With Rome’s new heart, her outlook is bright. She has a renewed sense of energy, and before long, she’ll be back on her way to pursuing her presidential dream.

“I’ll slowly work my way up [to becoming president],” Rome says. “I’ll start small, maybe be president of clubs and stuff, and slowly get there.”

Meanwhile, Rome’s care team at Children’s Health will be cheering her on along the way.


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