Christmas miracle for parents of little girl with severe heart damage caused by a case of the flu.
Gemma Botelho, a four-year-old girl in Florida, contracted the flu in December and it almost took her life, causing her to spend nine days in an induced coma while doctors contemplated the next steps to save the girl’s life.
An article on fox59.com details the little girl’s struggles and the ordeal her parents and family members endured as Gemma fought to recover from the flu strain that attacked the muscles of her small heart.
The story begins as Gemma came down with a slight fever and her parents treated her with medicine. The girl seemed to be better the next day and even felt well enough to participate in her school’s Christmas play.
But a few days later, she sickened again and this time also developed a rash, and her hands and feet were cold to the touch. Luckily for Gemma, her parents decided to take her to the emergency room for treatment, and doctors there found the flu had damaged her heart.
Bringing the operating room equipment to the emergency room to save time, the doctors had to hook Gemma up to life support, which took her out of the immediate danger. Dr. Robert Hannan, who performed the delicate procedure to hook Gemma to life support, knew the little girl would need a heart transplant to survive.
Hannan stayed with Gemma as she took a helicopter ride to St. Petersburg’s All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, while Gemma’s parents had to take a commercial flight, since the helicopter space was limited.
On the Sunday before Christmas, as Gemma’s damaged heart quivered uselessly, Gemma’s mother, Lejla Szabo from Hungary and her father, Alexander Botelho from Brazil, organized friends and family members to say prayers at Catholic masses in their home countries and also in Argentina, Italy, Miami and Boston.
Sunday night their prayers were answered as Gemma’s heart began to beat on its own again, and two days later, she was removed from life support entirely.
Doctors are not completely certain she did not suffer some brain damage, but they are hopeful about a great recovery. Dr. Jeffery Jacobs, her pediatric heart surgeon, said he could not explain what had caused her heart to revive, adding sometimes we don’t understand everything that happens in medicine.
Gemma’s parents believe the prayers were the reason, in conjunction with the excellent medical care she received at the two facilities. They have a message for all parents to get their children vaccinated for the flu.