Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 29, 2013

Every beat’s a blessing

Girl born with half a heart is putting up fight for her life

Jayson Larson
The Athens Review

Athens — GUN BARREL CITY — In four years of life, Eleanore Massengale has undergone six major surgeries — including three open-heart procedures for a heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).

According to the Mayo Clinic, HLHS is a congenital abnormality in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped.

Eleanore’s case is a little bit different.

“There is no left side,” said Dr. Damaris Wright, who served as Eleanore’s pediatric cardiologist until retiring in 2010 after 40 years in the medical field.

Massengale will be our cover feature in the Winter 2013 edition of “The HC magazine” — which will be published Thursday. A list of locations where you can get a free copy of “The HC magazine” is listed on Page 12A.

Two in every 10,000 babies in the U.S. are born with HLHS each year, or about 975 annually (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Undiagnosed, newborns typically live a few days with the condition.

Eleanore’s doctors detected the problem about halfway through her mother Christy’s pregnancy, setting off a series of medical procedures that has left the Massengales in hospitals and doctors’ offices for literally thousands of hours (Christy estimates the time to be equivalent to about a full year).

Even so, Eleanore reaches a big milestone in February. She turns five.

Reaching a half-decade of life seemed like a tall order in 2007 when doctors delivered the stunning news to the Massengales that their baby was going to be born with a heart defect.