Today We Celebrate Tiernee’s One Year Anniversary

When you hear of someone celebrating a milestone, weddings, anniversaries and graduations probably come to mind. Today we celebrate a different kind of milestone: one year living with a Total Artificial Heart. One year ago today, Tiernee Gonzalez (pictured above, middle, with her care team) created history. On November 8, 2012, she became the first female in a pediatric hospital to receive a device that replaced her own heart. The SynCardia Total Artificial Heart was chosen for Tiernee to save her life; an extreme measure that has truly proven successful.

Simply celebrating the time that has passed since Tiernee survived the extensive surgery, recovery and rehabilitation these last 12 months isn’t enough. We would like to honor the great strides she has made throughout this journey, especially with the adherence to her self-management routine. This includes carrying around more than 13 pounds of medical equipment each day and a 24/7 commitment to monitoring her device. She carries the SynCardia freedom driver device around in a backpack which gives her the ability to live a seemingly normal life. However, this means that she sleeps, eats and even showers with her driver! Her days are filled with medications, therapy and daily logging of how well her device is working. But she still makes time to do things that other people her age would be doing, like her nails! Just imagine this routine for a year, and counting.

Her care team and family are so incredibly proud of Tiernee; she truly amazes us. Having been so ill before the device implantation, she inspires everyone around her each day with her energy, positive attitude and dedication to health while she awaits a heart transplant. Her story is still being written as she receives therapies to help increase her chances of receiving a donor heart, but meanwhile, she smiles each and every day.

Tiernee has modeled herself as a fighter and role model for other adolescents and teens suffering from heart failure. She reaches out to everyone she can and has even taken the time to speak with an elementary class about the challenges she has faced and the successes she’s had. Tiernee’s aspirations are to continue educating others and even to further educate herself by attending college and hopefully graduate school one day.

Today we celebrate the story of a survivor; someone who inspires us each day to never give up. We look forward to this young lady’s future as it looks very bright. Congratulations Tiernee, and to all who have made this journey with you a reality.

Megan del Corral, RN, BSN, CCRN

About the Author: Megan del Corral, RN, BSN, CCRN

Megan del Corral, RN, BSN, CCRN, is the Cardiothoracic Surgery Nurse Coordinator and Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Clinical Specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Megan's scope of expertise extends to research, clinical practice, education and ongoing innovation in the field of VADs for pediatric patients. She is currently on an FDA grant submitted for conversion of the Circulite VAD to an outpatient pediatric device.

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Comments

  1. Bev Pennington November 08, 18:53
    This is so awesome! My son, Charles Miller has been a patient at Children's Hospital since birth, born with TOF, undergoing surgery at age 10 and again at 18. He is now seen in the Adult clinic. We feel so very blessed to have the excellent care of the amazing staff at Childrens. Dr Knilans, Dr. Webb, Dr. Learn. Praying for continued blessings for Tirenee and her family. Thanks for sharing!
  2. Bev Pennington November 08, 18:57
    Just want to add to my previous comment. When Charley was born he lived for 10 years without a pulmonary artery and we were told his body would finally give out. At age 10 he had surgery and is now 39 years old. He is a survivor.
  3. Randi Weesner November 08, 22:35
    She was amazing when she took care of my sister Kristi Balser..Thank you Megan
  4. Sheryl November 10, 07:55
    What a story! Her journey is certainly an inspiration to others. Thank goodness for innovative surgeons and support personnel who can " think outside the box" to create and implement plans to extend the lives of these young people. Well done!