Sam Crisler, The Waverly News
CERESCO – Breanna Killin prefers not to think about sad things, or things that could go wrong. It wouldn’t do him any good.
These thoughts would be hard for most people to resist in her place. Her daughter, Kynzlee, was born in October 2020 with a form of congenital heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means only the right side of Kynzlee’s heart was functional at birth.
At five days old, Kynzlee underwent her first open-heart surgery, which Killin says was performed to tie Kynzlee’s pulmonary veins to the back of her heart. The second operation took place at seven months.
Now Kynzlee needs a third surgery to repair the same veins, which have started to narrow and reduce blood flow. Two cardiac shunts must also be removed.
“The goal is to open those veins that have caused so much trouble,” Killin said.
But finding a surgeon to take on Kynzlee’s case was a challenge. Killin and Kynzlee’s father, Mark Jones, called hospitals across the country and was repeatedly turned down. The operation was too risky, they were told.
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They called Boston Children’s Hospital, their last resort.
“The doctors told us if they don’t take it, you’re down the road,” Killin said.
They were told “no” again. But Killin and Jones kept looking. Killin is a member of an online group for parents of “heart warriors” — children born with congenital heart disease (CHD) — and she was referred to a Houston-based pediatric surgeon as a possibility. She got the surgeon’s phone number and he ordered a CT scan for Kynzlee in Omaha.
“And we found out on January 13, literally as we were getting on a plane, that they were going to do the surgery,” Killin said.
“We are so relieved to have finally found a surgeon willing to do the operation. But at the same time, the risks and the assumptions…it’s a lot.
The operation is scheduled for March 24 at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, and the family has been trying to raise funds to cover the costs of their stay while Kynzlee recovers, which could take more than a month. A pancake food fundraiser was held at Ceresco United Methodist Church on March 5, and a GoFundMe raised about $2,000 of its $5,000 goal.
Killin said the support from the Ceresco community was “amazing”.
“It definitely takes a village to go through something like that,” she said. “So many people have been thinking about us or praying for us for so long, and we had no idea.”
Killin’s mood lifted when Kynzlee was tricked into sitting on his lap at the March 5 fundraiser. They both wore shirts that said “#TeamKynzlee” on the back. It’s her daughter’s positivity that keeps her strong.
“I have to stay positive because my baby, who has been through more than most adults, is happy all the time and challenging all the time,” Killin said. “She defies the odds with every breath she takes. And if she can smile through it all, I have no excuse.
Until recently, Kynzlee had to eat through a feeding tube. Killin said even a drop of food on Kynzlee’s lip would make her vomit. But over time, Kynzlee “just took off,” Killin said. She no longer eats with a feeding tube.
Killin has created a Facebook page that provides Kynzlee health updates and awareness of congenital heart disease. Killin said many people don’t realize that one in 100 babies is born with the disease.
The Facebook page is called “Kynzlee The Warrior”.
“She’s absolutely a warrior,” Killin said. “The strongest warrior I have ever met.”
Sam Crisler is a reporter for The Waverly News. Contact him by email at [email protected].