Walking down the halls of Hillsboro Middle School, Teagan Bignello appears to be like any other 13-year-old. Only she is not. When the eighth-grader was 3 days old and had heart surgery, doctors told her mother it was only a matter of time before she would need open heart surgery.
That time has come.
“Teagan has a complex congenital heart condition which will require cardiac catheterization, followed by heart surgery, followed by a period of prolonged recovery,” her mother, Tiffany Lynne Henderson, said. “Teagan was born with a congenital heart defect (bicupid and aortic stenosis). She required a balloon catheterization at 3 days old to open up the valve. During that procedure they had ripped her valve causing her to have not only have aortic stenosis, but aortic regurgitation also. We were told at that time in the future she would have to have her valve replaced and only time would tell.”
Bignello is like a lot of teenagers. She likes social media, making videos, animals, and singing. But her heart has to work harder than most people’s. Because of that, walls to the chambers in her heart are thickening, her heart is growing, and it is getting harder for her to breathe.
On Oct. 12, she will have her entire aortic valve replaced.
“If I had the same condition I wouldn’t be able to handle it like she has,” her mother said. “But she’s had it since birth and it’s the only thing her body knows. You wouldn’t know unless you knew her history. She doesn’t even tell most people.”
Shortly after Bignello was born, doctors noticed an odd murmur.
“Doctors ripped her valve during her catheterization at 3 days old causing her to have back flow. It’s causing her heart to enlarge. Therefore, her heart isn’t pumping out the blood normally and it’s staying in her chamber,” Henderson said.
The upcoming procedure is a scary process that started when Bignello had to take tests to make sure she was stable enough for surgery, followed by a cardiac catheterization. The results of a coronary angiogram showed no restrictions of blood flow, Hernderson said, but her daughter’s coronary arteries are bigger then normal.
“She was very scared, very nervous,” her mother said. “It was very, very rough getting her to calm down.”
It’s a scary time for Henderson, too.
“I mean, I try to stay positive, but we all worry about our children,” she said. “Being a single mom, too, it puts a lot of stress on you because my main focus is my children.”
Most of the time, Henderson said her daughter handles her situation like most people in her position would.
“I guess she’s up and down like anyone that’s going through something so traumatic,” Henderson said. “She’s leery, then she’s OK. She doesn’t speak much about her feelings. She’s really shy and doesn’t want to talk about it a lot, I guess.”
Because she is single and is also raising a younger daughter, Henderson is asking for financial support.
”I will be off work to care for (Teagan) during her recovery to a better life,” Henderson said. “I will not be getting paid for this time off. With appointments, medical bills and month-to-month bills racking up, it is going to be hard for us. We do not have any other benefits but insurance through my work. I’m asking for some financial support, anything to help during this stressful time. Help support my heart warrior.”
Henderson said she will be off work four to eight weeks after her daughter’s surgery. Prior to and after the surgery, Bignello will need therapy one to two times a week. Henderson said other hospital visits will follow.
An account has been set up at gofundme.com. Henderson said she knows what her monthly bills are and that she hopes to raise $5,000. So far, the account has raised $1,662.
“I’d just like to tell people that I appreciate their help,” she said. “It means a lot to me and my family.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.