Toddler spends first Christmas at home after nearly 2 years hospitalized

After 7 surgeries, stroke, Valentina Garnetti gets to spend Christmas at home

A toddler is going to be home for Christmas for the first time after spending nearly 2 years of her life hospitalized.

At this time of year, holiday joy starts with the children -- but what if a young child has never known that joy at home?

At 2 years old, Valentina Garnetti is one of those children, having spent most of her life hospitalized.

“She’s definitely a miracle!” said Francesca, Garnetti’s mother.

“She ended up having open heart surgery -- her first one at just two days old. And then she had her second open heart surgery early at 3 1/2 months old,” she added. “After that, she was really sick, and they placed her on ECMO life support.”

Born with a so-called “half a heart,” which is actually just three heart chambers instead of four, Garnetti’s first 694 days on Earth were spent at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

After seven surgeries, four of them open heart, and even a stroke, the 2-year-old girl was finally able to leave the hospital in March. Now, after a summer of firsts and an emotional rollercoaster for single mom Francesca, Valentina Garnetti is taking in her new -- and very colorful -- Christmas surroundings.

“She loves the Christmas tree and it’s all new to her,” Francesca said. “She just had a little tree in the hospital, we made the most of it there, but everything is new: seeing the tree, going to look at Christmas lights outside, baking cookies, everything. It’s all a new, first experience for her.”

The toddler is not verbal yet, but the family says they’re working on that. Garnetti lost the use of her right hand fingers because of the stroke.

Still, she is spirited, a bit headstrong and loving the simpler and less intrusive environment that her home provides.

“We didn’t know if she would ever make it out of the hospital at all,” her mother said. “So, for her to be here -- not just out of the hospital, but happy and relatively healthy for everything she’s been through -- it means everything to me.”

Because of Garnetti’s underlying conditions, there won’t be a lot of family around for her first Christmas at home -- but, rest assured, it’s going to be a most memorable holiday season.

You can learn more about Valentina Garnetti’s life story on Facebook right here.

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About the Author:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.