Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

From teething to transplant: Izabella’s Journey

Celebrating 10 Years of Healing Hearts at the UF Health Congenital Heart Center

In December of 2011, Krystina Lopez was given little hope that her twin daughters, Jesubelle and Izabella who were born three months premature, would survive. While Jesubelle continued to show progress, Izabella’s fight for survival had just begun. At three weeks old, Izabella suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage, a life-threatening condition when the lungs bleed out. As a result, Izabella’s condition continued to rapidly deteriorate and she was placed on life support. At four months old, doctors at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., diagnosed Izabella with surfactant deficiency caused by ABCA3 mutation, a rare form of lung disease that can require lung transplantation. At the time, doctors gave Izabella a seven month life expectancy.

Soon after, physicians from UF Health, supported by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a non-profit organization that raises funds for medical research and increases awareness about children’s health issues, reached out to Krystina about transferring Izabella to Gainesville for a pediatric lung transplant. With little time to spare, ShandsCair successfully transferred Izabella in May of 2012 where she would receive a pediatric heart-lung transplant performed by Mark Bleiweis, MD, director of the UF Health Congenital Heart Center and chief of congenital cardiothoracic surgery.

“Some people will explain transplant as a second chance at life, but for Izabella this was her only chance at life,” Krystina said. “Without Children’s Miracle Network and the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, Izabella wouldn’t have a second chance.”

As a result of the surgery, Izabella became one the youngest patients in the United States to receive a heart-lung transplant.

During Izabella’s stay at the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, Children’s Miracle Network assisted the family by making them feel at ease. For the first 17 days of their stay, Izabella’s family would sleep on a pull-out bed next to Izabella’s crib that was donated by the organization.

At four years old, Izabella, whose spunk and giggle is irresistible, continues to thrive and grow alongside her siblings.

“I’m really thankful for the little things that aren’t so little to me, like making friends and making connections. It would not have happened without Children’s Miracle Network,” Krystina said. “They’ve become a second family to us. “

About the Author

Alisha Katz's picture

Alisha Katz

Marketing Manager

Alisha Katz joined the UF Health Communications team in 2015 and serves as the marketing manager for UF Health Surgical Services, UF Health Shands Transplant Center, UF Health Advanced Lung...Read More

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