Gabby’s heart condition affects every part of her life. She had her first surgery when she was a year old, and her medical problems continued.
There’s good news, though: Living with Shone syndrome could alter Gabby’s life in a positive way by motivating her to help kids who, like her, face a life-threatening heart condition. She is determined to study at Harvard Medical School and go on to a career as a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon.
Make-A-Wish® gave Gabby a glimpse of what to expect at Harvard … and a reason to excel in everything she does.
Challenges Start Early
It started with a respiratory infection in 1999. Doctors suspected Gabby may have just had pneumonia. What they found, though, devastated Gabby’s family – a rare heart condition that narrows her heart valves and obstructs blood flow in and out of the heart.
Multiple surgeries followed – balloons in her valves, three different stents, too many hospital visits to count.
Now, Gabby might be near a turning point … a valve transplant could, at last, fix her heart.
First Glimpse of the Future
On the way to many of her surgeries in Boston, Gabby and her family passed the Harvard campus. She would tell her family that, one day, she’d go there to study.
Even when she was just 8 years old, Gabby would vow to be a Harvard student one day. She admits that it sounds like a whimsical, fleeting childhood aspiration … the sort of thing kids say one day, but forget about the next.
When Make-A-Wish volunteers offered to grant her wish, Gabby proved her vision is the real deal. She asked to be a Harvard Medical School student.
Wish granters moved through the many levels of administration at Harvard. And their request found the right person: Dr. Robert Kitts, Harvard clinical instructor, attending physician at Boston Children’s Hospital and adolescent psychiatrist. He planned a week-long program for Gabby that would start with orientation on a Friday and a “graduation” on the following Friday.
“I wanted to craft all four years into one week,” Kitts told a local journalist. “I knew the first-year medical students were starting Aug. 20. So the day they started, she started, too.”
Gabby’s experience went far deeper than tours and intro classes. She worked with simulation mannequins and attended lectures. She even witnessed an intense culmination of a Harvard medical education … open-heart surgery on an infant.
The Harvard experience is over – but only for now. In her wish, Gabby found an affirmation that her goal to be a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon is within reach. She doesn’t fear the hard work such a path demands, and said her week at Harvard “makes me want to work 10 times harder in school. It changed my attitude and outlook.”