On February 15, 2013 Danielle and Ryan Allen gave birth to their second child, Valentina. However, this beautiful baby girl was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) 20 weeks into Danielle’s pregnancy, but Valentina was quite the fighter.
Throughout the pregnancy, Danielle and Ryan knew they had to make a very difficult decision. They visited several hospitals and received many recommendations from different doctors. Most did not give Valentina much of a chance at all. However, one hospital would match Valentina’s fight. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia gave her the fighting chance that the parents needed to hear.
The birth of Valentina, which was a question mark in itself, was a success. When examining her condition, the doctors realized not only was she born with half a heart, but also what was on the left should have been on the right and vice versa. This made every surgery even more difficult.
Valentina went through countless surgeries before she did not have any more fight left in her. On May 12, 2015, at just two years old, Valentina passed. Many looked at this as a battle that was lost. However, those same people did not realize that the battle was just beginning.
Danielle and Ryan could have sat back and grieved, which would have been completely understandable, but they did not do that. They were inspired by their daughter’s two-year fight and they continue till this day to raise money and fight for other’s who are in the same shoes that Valentina once was.
Their story and fight has inspired others to join along. The battle started off small with small donations, and wristbands and t-shirts being sold in Valentina’s name. However, it continued to grow. In the two years since her passing, Danielle and Ryan have raised nearly $200,000 through various fundraisers. Most recently, the Angels of the Bay Foundation donated over $40,000 in Valentina’s name to CHOP. The family also collects toys during the holiday season to bring to the hospital so the kids who are spending their days there have something to bring them joy. The ultimate goal is to have a cardiology examining room at CHOP to be named in Valentina’s honor.
The fight is far from over and people are still getting on board. I encourage you to help continue this fight and hopefully a cure can be found. There are various treatments for patients who are diagnosed with HLHS, but a cure is yet to be found. Some do live with this disease, but there are complications that they face their whole lives. They have to deal with taking medicine day after day, check-ups too often, and even additional surgery may be required. Some patients are lucky enough to receive heart transplants, but even then the fight does not stop. These patients have to take medicines for the rest of their lives to prevent the body from rejecting the new heart.
It is time that HLHS becomes more known so we can stop others from suffering down the road. The people fighting this battle have been tremendous so far, but it is far from over. The support system continues to grow and it has now reached college sports. The St. Joseph’s Brooklyn Women’s Basketball team will be playing in Valentina’s honor for their first six home games. These games will be played on November 15th, 21st, 28th, and 30th, and December 2nd and 5th. During these games the team will be collecting donations with all the proceeds going towards CHOP, while collecting toys as well for the kids who spend their holidays at the Hospital. On December 5th they will hold a ceremony in honor of Valentina. I urge you to come support these girls as they play for a growing cause. Do not let the battle stop now. Help us in making sure this continues to grow. The fight is far from over, but the light is in sight.
HLHS is a disease that is overlooked too often and awareness needs to increase. All I ask is that you spread the word about HLHS. I am not expecting anyone to donate or take further action, but anything helps. Visit the donation page if you wish to help the cause. You can also help the cause by coming out and supporting the St. Joseph’s College Women’s Basketball Team. As mentioned, they will be collecting donations via 50/50 raffle and donation jars, while collecting toys as well. You can learn more about Valentina and the growing community who has been helping support the cause and raise awareness by visiting the Facebook page that was started by her parents, Ryan and Danielle. Once again, just help spread the word by sharing this article, retweeting the tweet about it on New York Groove’s Twitter page, or just talking about HLHS in your community. Let’s continue this fight together, so one day we can finally put an end to HLHS.
I'm a washed up D3 college baseball player who is pursuing their MBA in Accounting. I love baseball, basketball, and football; while rooting for the New York Mets, New York Knicks, and New York Giants. Most of the time it is full of misery. I have recently found a passion for writing about sports. I have posted a few articles for Last Word on Sports and I have now created my own website (the-sportstalk.com). You can check out my articles there and also follow the twitter account @_thesportstalk.