Story, Patient

Havana’s Fight for Life and a Second Chance

September 21, 2023

Havana was determined to fight for her life, and doctors at the Children's Hospital Colorado Heart Institute were determined to give her the chance to thrive.

In the days following Havana’s birth, her parents received heart-wrenching news about their precious newborn. Doctors discovered a heart valve deformity that posed a significant challenge. The odds of her surviving a corrective surgery were so slim that even the medical team hesitated to estimate her chances.

Nicole and Jason, Havana’s parents, faced an agonizing decision. They grappled with the dilemma of whether to risk a surgery that might not save their beloved daughter, fearing it would deprive them of the limited time they believed they had left with her. With heavy hearts, they brought Havana home for hospice care, cherishing every moment with the daughter they had longed for, named after the Cuban city that held a special place in Nicole’s family history.

Support in difficult times

During this trying period, Children’s Hospital Colorado provided unwavering support to the family. Nicole had to break the heartbreaking news to their young son, explaining that “sometimes, babies can’t be healed here on earth, so they have to go back to God.”

But as the days passed, something extraordinary began to happen. Havana, against all odds, grew stronger with each passing day, defying the initial prognosis. On the tenth day of her life, Nicole and Jason returned to Children’s Colorado with their miraculously resilient baby girl. She had gained an entire pound, significantly improving her chances of surviving the vital surgery her fragile heart required.

A fight for life

A week later, Havana was recovering from her first surgery at the Children’s Colorado Heart Institute—a temporary fix to buy her time until she was big enough for further heart procedures. However, her recovery was briefly interrupted when her new valve developed a blood clot. Havana was swiftly taken to the Emergency Department at the Children’s Colorado South Campus.

After another heart surgery at just one month old, Havana’s health improved somewhat, but her heart still faced challenges. The experts at Children’s Colorado determined that a heart transplant offered the best chance for her to reach her first birthday and beyond. Havana was placed on the transplant list.

As the family anxiously waited, Havana’s maternal grandfather shared a dream he had in which Havana’s great-grandmother appeared, promising a blessing in 40 days. Astonishingly, 40 days later, Nicole and Jason received the long-awaited call they had been hoping for.

A second chance

At just over two months old, Havana received her new heart – and the gift of life from a very special donor, the center of every transplant story. After the transplant, the once-pale baby girl now bloomed with shades of pink and red, a sign of her newfound vitality.

Although Havana faced some complications after her life-changing operation, her parents found solace in the expertise of the nurses and doctors at Children’s Colorado. They knew they were in capable hands, and their confidence grew knowing that the hospital could handle any challenges that arose.


Today, Havana is a healthy elementary schooler. Routine blood draws are part of her life to monitor her heart and overall health. Child Life specialists make it less daunting bringing comfort with prizes, fun bandages, and stickers. They even helped Havana transition from liquid medicines to pills, which she takes twice a day.

Dreaming of a future as a veterinarian, Havana has a passion for animals ignited during her time at Children’s Colorado, where she fell in love with the vibrant fish tanks. She now has her own fish tank.

Nicole fondly reflects on Havana’s journey, saying, “Havana just had that spirit to fight,” and credits the dedicated doctors and cutting-edge technology at Children’s Colorado for giving her daughter a chance to thrive.