WASHINGTON (WJLA) – Little Eliana Ortiz just turned two, but when she was an infant, doctors weren’t sure she’d make it to her second birthday. A true fighter, Eliana overcame insurmountable odds in a fight for her life.
For so long, Orlando and Whitney Ortiz dreamed of a moment like this—playing in the park with their twin daughters, Emilia and Eliana.
“We’d always keep that vision, and that hope, and that faith, and here we are,” Whitney Ortiz said. “It’s just a miracle.”
When she was two months old, Eliana’s breathing suddenly changed. She went into heart failure and had to be placed on a ventilator.
“Her heart was basically vibrating, it wasn’t even really pumping,” Whitney Ortiz said.
Dr. Venkat Shankar at Children’s National Medical Center diagnosed Eliana with dilated cardiomyopathy.
“Which basically means the heart is big and the muscles are not squeezing at all,” he said.
Eliana’s condition was caused by a genetic mutation that no one else in the family had, including her fraternal twin sister.
Eliana improved with medications, but six months later, her condition worsened.
“The cardiologist said that her heart wasn’t looking that good and asked that we admit her the next day,” Whitney Ortiz said. “She started going downhill, fast.”
At the time, the FDA had just approved a device Eliana wore called a Berlin Heart. It pumps the blood for the heart and is used as a bridge to heart transplant. Eliana was the first patient at CNMC to use it.
“Without Berlin Heart, she probably would have not survived,” Dr. Shankar said.
The average child uses the Berlin Heart for 28 days. Eliana used it for 165. Despite spending seven months in the hospital, she kept smiling.
“I could see her eyes shining and smiling,” said her father, Orlando Ortiz. “She gave me so much hope.”
Finally, doctors found a match for Eliana. She received a heart transplant from an 18-month-old boy.
“I also want to say how thankful we are to that family,” Whitney Ortiz said. “They had to make such a hard decision, and they have given us such an amazing gift.”
Since her surgery last September, Eliana has taken major strides forward. Now, her fight is focused on catching up with her twin sister.
“When I see her smiling and so happy I think, ‘Wow, how far she’s come,’” Whitney Ortiz said. “What a fighter.”
The Ortiz family wants other families in similar situations to find hope in their story, and advise them to keep faith and focus on the positive for their children, just as they did for Eliana.