Danbury girl featured in heart health awareness event

February 10, 2018

DANBURY - It’s a big year for Adriana Pratt, who’s preparing for her first Holy Communion this spring with her second-grade class at St. Peter School.

The 7-year-old, who recently swapped out two baby teeth for permanents, is almost ready for her school’s Valentine’s Day party next week, with boxes of candy for her classmates and a card for her teacher.

“I’m friends with my whole class,” she says, bouncing on the couch.

But it was a special event on Friday night in New York that recalled an even bigger event in her young life - one she does not remember.

It centered on a moment neither of her parents can forget.

“I remember that moment - it’s one of the clearest pictures I have in my head,” said John Pratt, Adriana’s father, speaking of the moment his daughter was taken into the operating room to undergo nine hours of open-heart surgery. “I sat down in what seemed like the biggest room in the hospital ... and it just felt so empty. Time stood still.”

The girl’s mother says she was scarred by the moment.

“I don’t think it was until the day of the surgery that the thought that this might not go well even entered my head,” said Tara Pratt. “But at that moment it was like, ‘Here we go,’ because you just don’t know.”

The Pratts got the bad news about Adriana’s rare heart defect three days after she was born. Owing to a complicated condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot, there were actually four defects in their daughter’s little heart - including a narrow pulmonary valve and a hole in the wall between the left and right ventricles.

“Her condition is what they call ‘blue baby syndrome,’ because in severe cases if the baby gets really upset their skin would turn blue,” Tara Pratt said.

“The chambers of her heart weren’t fully formed, but she never had any issue with turning blue or oxygen levels or anything like that,” the mother said. “She was like a normal, healthy little baby who we had to take to numerous appointments until she was old enough at six months for the surgery.”

“I’m seven,” Adriana said during an after-school interview with her parents last week.

“But when you had the surgery you were a little baby,” her mother said.

Adriana goes along with it, because she’s grown used to it. For the past year, she and her mother have been helping promote the New York health network that operates the children’s hospital where she had her surgery.

Friday night’s event at a Marriott ballroom in Tarrytown, N.Y., to benefit the Westchester Medical Center Health Network’s Heart and Vascular Institute, was the latest venue to showcase Adriana’s story. Also scheduled to appear were several women who have survived heart disease.

Tara Pratt remembers doing her best to zone out anxiety about the operation.

“The assistant surgeon was talking to us saying, “First we are going to repair the chambers and then we have to do this and then we have to stop her heart and I’m like - ‘Okay, I’m done,’” the mother said. “I didn’t want to hear any more - I wanted to think about sunshine and rainbows, and not think about what they were doing.”

Adriana just smiles.

She knows that her heart is healthy and she knows why heart health is so important.

“Because it helps you love things,” she says. “That is why I am wearing red.”

She is referring to her red lace dress with a black sash that she picked out for the Friday night gala, called “Girls’ Night Out.”

Adriana has also done a radio interview and attended a dance-a-thon fundraiser for the health network, her mother said.

“This “Ladies Night Out” is usually just for women,” the mother said. “So she is the first girl that gets to be a part of it.”

The Pratts credit the surgeons at the health network’s Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y., for saving their daughter’s life.

“It’s open-heart surgery, so nothing is guaranteed,” Tara Pratt said. “I have become more spiritual and I kind of just believed that everything was going to be okay.”

The fact that Adriana doesn’t remember the most important moment in her life is probably a good thing, her mother says.

“I can be scarred from that experience, but for her, she has no idea it happened, and that’s good,” Tara Pratt said. “That’s the way it should be.”

rryser@newstimes.com 203-731-3342