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Rachel always has a smile on her face. Not much stops her, and she lives life to the fullest, whether she’s riding her bike, skiing down the bunny hill, having fun at school, or playing with her sister, her parents, her friends and her pets.

Rachel has aortic, mitral and tricuspid valve stenosis, which means her heart valves don’t open properly. She also has pulmonary hypertension, which means the arteries that carry blood from her heart to her lungs don’t work as well as they should. Both of these conditions make Rachel’s heart work extra hard to pump blood.

Rachel has undergone three open-heart surgeries and “so many catheterizations we’ve lost count,” says her mom, Susan, and she’s been in the hospital many times with complications. “We’re indebted to Rachel’s pediatrician, her cardiologist’s team, and the pediatric intensive care unit and ER medical providers and staff for keeping Rachel alive during the first years of her life,” her mom says. “For sitting with us in the hospital and never acting like they were in a rush to leave, for making it seem like it’s always going to be okay, for holding our hands through each and every process. The impact these people have on our lives is immeasurable.”

Rachel will need more open-heart surgeries and will be under the care of a cardiologist for the rest of her life. Similar to other heart kids, she tires out quickly. She takes several doses of medication daily, takes regular naps, and is on oxygen at night. But even in the face of her serious health issues, Rachel remains a courageous, resilient, determined girl whose enthusiasm for life is an inspiration to all around her.

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