ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — For Valentina Garnetti, the hospital was home.
She spent 694 days of her two-year-old life inside C.S. Motts Children's Hospital. That means two birthdays, two thanksgivings and two Christmases.
This year, she will be able to open gifts under her own Christmas tree.
The journey, however, has been far from easy. In two years, Valentina has endured four open heart surgeries, the first just two days after she was born.
“She had her second open heart surgery early at 3 ½ months old and she was very very sick after that one,” Francesca Garnetti, Valentina's mom, said.
Garnetti says her daughter was born with congenital heart disease, often referred to as half a heart. It's a condition that forced Valentina to spend more than half her life in the hospital.
Garnetti, a single mother of three girls, says every day her daughter wasn't home was hard, but the pain grew around the holidays.
“It's really hard because especially with COVID-19, no one could come to the hospital, so it was just us spending Christmas together by ourselves,” Garnetti said.
But this year, Valentina will be home to experience all the season's joys for the first time.
“Driving around looking at lights, baking cookies, decorating cookies, going to see Santa instead of seeing Santa on a computer screen,” Garnetti said.
“This is why we do what we do,” said Dr. Mary Olive, who is apart of Valentina's care team at Motts Children's Hospital.
Olive says there were times where they did not know if she would be able to live without a team of doctors and nurses by her side, so to see her home “makes it all so worth it.”
“She’s not just here, but she is here happy and she is thriving. Even though she has a ton of medication and she takes a feeding tube and she is on oxygen, she loves her life,” Garnetti said.