For Mission Viejo resident Paloma Bartocci, this is her third open heart surgery in just 13 months of life. "You don't know what to expect when you walk into that recovery room," mother Marlena Bartocci said.
Born prematurely, Paloma was diagnosed with severe mitral valve stenosis. Since then, her parents have done what they can to give her a chance to live, the journey bringing them here to Lucille Packard, where she underwent surgery Wednesday.
"It's still nerve-wracking because the first 48 hours is incredibly crucial for her recovery," Marlena said.
The surgery to repair her mitral valve was done to avoid full cardiac failure. Doctors say she still has a long road ahead and will need life-long care.
But the family says the community's support has kept them positive.
"Just to see how many people that I have no idea, all over the world, it's just touching. And people are like sharing, sharing tears with us," father Daniel Bartocci said.
That support has come through social media and from ABC7 News viewers like you, who have contributed to a fund to help Paloma with her medical expenses.
The other day, Motel 6 even stepped up to donate housing. "Impossible to thank everyone, but we are touched by the support," Daniel said.
The family just found out they'll be able to move into the Ronald McDonald House this weekend. They'll stay there until Paloma is released from the hospital.
Meanwhile, they're looking forward to what will hopefully be her next milestones. "Her just crawling and walking would be amazing," Marlena said.
A spirited, strong-willed little girl will soon have more reasons to smile.
Paloma's older sister, Penelope, is currently staying with her grandparents in Southern California. She looks forward to welcoming the entire family back home soon.
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