Kansas City,
13:54 PM

Derby Informer: Happy and alive

By Deb Gruver and David Dinell

Brooklynn Dodge might have been the most excited 7-year-old to walk into El Paso Elementary School on the first day of classes this fall.

That she’d ever be 7 or get to go to school were never guaranteed for this bright-eyed, wide-smiled girl who struggles to think of something specific when asked what makes her happy.

The secret to her attitude?

Not taking anything for granted. A lot of people try to live by that motto.

Brooklynn is just glad to live.

A newborn’s heart is the size of a walnut. Only half of Brooklynn’s has worked since she was born.

“She has half a heart. She doesn’t have 100 percent lung function. She’s missing a large part of her neurological anatomy. And she’s rockin’ it,” said her mother, Melissa Dodge.By the time Brooklynn joined Erin Lewis’ first-grade classroom Aug. 15, she’d undergone 21 surgeries, three of which were open-heart procedures – the first when she was only 8 days old. She spent seven months of the first year of her life in hospitals. She has overcome a paralyzed diaphragm and is still living with a paralyzed vocal cord. She sleeps on oxygen because doctors diagnosed her in 2016 with chronic lung disease.

Dodge found out when she was 18 weeks pregnant that Brooklynn was the one in an oft-cited statistic. One out of every 100 babies born in the U.S. come into the world with a congenital heart defect.

Brooklynn has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, affects normal blood flow through the heart. The left side of Brooklynn’s heart did not form correctly.

Since birth – and even before, really – doctors and surgeons at Children’s Mercy Hospital in the Kansas City area have worked to keep Brooklynn alive. Dodge said staff at the hospital are like family.

Brooklynn’s teacher, Lewis, said Brooklynn “reminds me that even on my worst day, I have nothing to complain about.”

Despite being in a constant state of heart failure, Dodge said her daughter “is so thankful for life. She never has a bad day. Her joy ... is massively contagious.”

She loves school. She loves dancing. She loves singing.

“I feel like there’s a song in her heart at all times,” Dodge said.


Read the full story via the Derby Informer

Learn more about the Heart Center at Children's Mercy Hospital