Sharon Roznik, Action Reporter Media 9:31 a.m. CDT October 28, 2014
All most parents want for their children is health and happiness.
Each day Jessica and Jason Rodgers of Fond du Lac hope their daughter will be one step closer to both.
Born on Aug. 19, 2013, Brianna was diagnosed with hypoplastic right heart syndrome. HLHS is a rare birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. The underdevelopment of the right side structures of the heart means that the chambers, valves and related blood vessels are malformed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year about 960 babies in the United States are born with HLHS.
The Rodgers found out about their baby’s condition when Jessica Rodgers was four and a half months pregnant.
“It was very hard for them, knowing what their child would face in life, but I told them that God would get them through,” said Brianna’s grandmother Evelyn Rodgers of Mayville.
The first months of life were a struggle and Brianna died twice and was revived, Evelyn Rodgers said. The doctors at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee were finally able to perform a life-saving heart transplant on Brianna on March 22 of this year.
The toddler is now 13 months old and is thriving because of a tube that provides nutrition. Before the transplant, the second time Brianna was placed on life support, a procedure left a part of her vocal cord paralyzed, causing her to regurgitate food.
“She gets sick a lot, up to 20 times a day, and we don’t know exactly what is causing it,” said her father, Jason Rodgers. A speech therapist has been working on teaching her how to eat with the hope that eventually she will be able to receive nutrition by mouth.
The proud father describes his daughter as “the happiest baby you have ever seen.” Brianna is now crawling and pulling herself up on furniture. Her older brother Tyler, 13, has taken on the role of being a third parent.
If Brianna had been born 20 years ago she would have died from the syndrome. Her heart will last another 10 to 15 years, and then she will need another transplant, Jason Rodgers said.
Although the family has health insurance, multiple trips back and forth to Children’s Hospital, along with 13 different types of medication, have taken a financial toll. With the cost of a transplant often exceeding $500,000, many transplant families are unable to shoulder the financial burden of such a procedure.
Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) is a national charity dedicated to organizing and guiding communities in raising funds for transplant-related expenses.
In Fond du Lac, volunteers are needed to assist in fund-raising activities that will help with transplant-related expenses. Everything which is raised for Brianna through COTA is used for medical care and to offset medical expenses.
Contact Sharon Roznik at sroznik@fdlreporter,com or (920) 907-7936; on Twitter: @sharonroznik.
How to help
Individuals or groups interested in helping the Rodgers family or the transplant fund may contact community coordinator Tamara Blasing at (920) 251-6391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations can be mailed to Children’s Organ Transplant Association, 2501 W. COTA Drive, Bloomington, Ind. 47403. Checks or money orders can be made payable to CODA with “In Honor of Brianna R” written on the memo line of the check. Secure credit card donations are also accepted online at COTAforBriannR.com.