Patients & Visitors

A Tiny Life Changes in a Heartbeat


It all started when doctors discovered a murmur in newborn Cora’s heart. She was just 12 hours old when an echocardiogram revealed this “murmur” was actually a terrifying defect—Cora had been born with just half a heart. 

She was immediately airlifted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. An expert staff of pediatric physicians and surgeons met with Cora’s parents and explained what needed to be done: Cora would undergo a series of surgeries. The first came when she was just four days old—a procedure to convert the right ventricle into the main ventricle so it could pump blood to her body. The surgery went extremely well, as did the two that followed. But due to their complicated and risky nature, Cora had to spend six months in the Pediatric ICU at Phoenix Children’s. 

When There’s Only One Option

Over the next three years, Cora recovered nicely. But right before her fourth birthday her heart valve needed additional repairs. Though the surgery went well, Cora’s body had a hard time recovering. “That’s when things started to unravel,” says her father, Dana. “She just kept getting sicker and sicker. Her digestive system and kidneys were shutting down. We knew she needed a new heart.”

“Her digestive system and kidneys were shutting down. We knew she needed a new heart.”

Three months went by before that transplant became available. The operation was performed a month after Cora’s fourth birthday by cardiovascular surgeon Dr. John Nigro. Thanks to the expert physicians and staff at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the transplant was a great success. Still, Cora had to spend the next three months in the hospital before she was strong enough to go home. 

​A Happy, Vibrant Child

Today, Cora sees her pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Stephen Pophal, once a month to make sure everything is working properly. She just had her one-year biopsy and is doing great. She will be in kindergarten this year and will be enrolling in dance classes as well. Overall, she’s as happy, vibrant and active as a typical child her age. She’s even able to keep up with her older brother, Dalton—something Cora loves to brag about. 

“The talent that those doctors have and what they’ve done to give us back our daughter, it’s amazing,” says Dana. “There are no words for the immense gratitude we feel toward everyone—doctors, nurses and staff—at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Thank you all so very much.” 


Watch Cora's Video

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