When Leah McGettigan was only six months old, her mommy and daddy told her she was about to be a big sister!  About half-way through the pregnancy with their second child, in a typical anatomy scan ultrasound, Mary and Donald McGettigan, were informed that imaging of the baby’s heart was not clear.  Mary and Don were referred to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for more detailed fetal ultrasounds and an echocardiogram in their Fetal Diagnostic Center.  During their first cardiology visit, the McGettigans received the difficult news that their child had a Ventricular Septal Defect or muscular VSD (a large hole between the two lower-chambers of the heart – almost as if there were only 3 chambers), along with a more severe coarctation, or narrowing, of the aorta arch.  The good news was that both could be repaired, and CHOP was the best place for us to be.

From that moment the Cardiac team at CHOP began preparing a plan, under the guidance of Cardiologist Dr. David Goldberg, to ensure that this baby would lead as happy and healthy a life as possible, with a repaired heart.  The arrangement was for the baby to be born in CHOP’s Special Delivery Unit (connected to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and designed specifically for babies with known birth defects), and upon stabilizing the baby, a plan for corrective heart surgeries would be made.

After eight weeks of bed rest with mom and five weeks before her official due date, “Baby Girl” McGettigan was born on November 17, 2011 in the CHOP SDU.  Mary and Don stayed up all night worrying about her diagnosis after birth and trying to giver her a name.  They went to bed and “Baby Girl” still had no name of her own, except baby “Sweetheart” as her mom-moms called her in her mommy’s belly.


Early the next morning, November 18, 2011, Mary and Don were awakened by Dr. Goldberg with news that Dr. Thomas Spray (Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery Division at CHOP) had an opening in his schedule just 4 hours later, and there was no benefit in delaying the baby’s impending surgeries.  Mary and Don knew they couldn’t let their little girl go into open heart surgery without a name, so after spending every last second with her, they decided on the name Cara Ann.  The surgery was successful, and soon Cara was speeding her way through recovery in the CICU, and eventually in the step-down unit of the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU).  Just seven days removed from surgery on the day after Thanksgiving, Cara was discharged to big sister Leah waiting at home.  Due to feeding issues from paralyzed vocal cords, Cara was on a nasogastric tube for four months, and hasn’t looked back since that tube came out! 

As of her July 2015 Cardiac follow-up at CHOP, Cara is continuing to amaze Dr. Goldberg and she is already looking forward to her 4th birthday and 4th “heart day" in November!  Cara loves to play babies and house; she likes Anna from Frozen, Minnie Mouse, and the Berenstain Bears. Cara exceeds our expectations daily and steals our heart with her smile. She is a rockstar, a miracle, and will always be our SWEETHEART!