Doctors and specialists work to give every child born with a congenital heart defect the best outcome possible.  

But sometimes the child’s body does miraculous things to help itself.  

A combination of the two is making all the difference for a Derby first grader.

Brooklynn Dodge’s parents knew well before she was born she would have significant health challenges.

While much of what they knew helped Brooklynn’s parents prepare, there were some predictions that were shattered by the young girl’s will to survive and thrive.

“I’m so thankful I wasn’t totally caught off guard, but I don’t think there’s any way you’re not caught of guard whether you’re pregnant or you’re not pregnant. This is overwhelming,” says Melissa Dodge, Brooklynn’s mom.

With two other healthy kids and two previous normal pregnancies, Melissa thought she was going in for a routine 18 week sonogram. 

“I did feel like it was taking a little longer, but I was like whatever, maybe I didn’t drink enough water,” explains Melissa.

But afterward, the doctor stopped by to chat.

“Then, she handed me this pamphlet on hypoplastic left heart and said they think that this is what they’re seeing,” says Melissa.

That’s when she learned half of her daughter’s heart was missing.

“They said she might not even survive the pregnancy, and if she did, she probably wouldn’t survive early on,” Melissa remembers.

Devastated by the prognosis, Brooklynn’s parents forged ahead making all the preparations they could to give their baby girl the best chance possible.  

Brooklynn would be born in Kansas City and would likely need her first surgery within her first week of life.  

Her mom first got a chance to hold her the night before that surgery as part of preparation for a possible worst case scenario.

“I didn’t even care,” says Melissa. “This is my child. She’s a week old and from the outside you cannot tell there’s anything wrong. She was gorgeous and had a head full of hair and I didn’t care. I held her as long as they let me.”

In her first seven years of life, Brooklynn had three heart surgeries.  

She’s had a feeding tube and a trachea for five years.  

Her body has adapted to provide what she needs to survive.

“We just recently found out that she’s missing both of her carotid arteries which is a huge part of your body, and Brooklyn has made it seven years without both of hers,” smiles Melissa.

Melissa calls Brooklynn’s body a miracle, telling us it has formed parts to make things work they way she needs them to work.

“I can’t tell you how she walks, I can’t tell you how she talks, I can’t tell you how her eyes are getting blood, I don’t know how we’re doing X, Y and Z, but she is so we’re just gonna let her be,” says Melissa.

Brooklynn was homeschooled the first several years of her life due to the scheduling need for all her medical appointments.

But this past fall, she started first grade in the Derby school district with what she called 100 percent excitement.