As 4-Year-Old Celebrates Birthday, Family Clings to Hope for a New Heart

August 24, 2017 11:45 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Thousands of people come to the Med City for life-saving operations every year. One of those people is 4-year-old Ava Lengsavath.

On Thursday ABC 6 was invited to Mayo Clinic as Ava turned 4 years old with her family, friends and her medical team.


Like a typical birthday party, you need streamers, balloons, and of course, you have to have cake. While the nurses at Mayo Clinic know their guest of honor loves Moana-themed everything for decorations, what they're most excited about is the fact that Ava will be walking to her surprise party.

After taking her first steps surrounded by cheers and high fives from nurses and doctors in the Pediatric ICU in Saint Marys Mary Brigh building, she was treated to a performance from medical staff as they sang for her birthday.

"To see my little girl, to have other people loving her and caring for her, means so much to me," said Skip Lengsavath.

Ava's dad Skip showered her with the Moana gifts from her doctors and nurses, family and friends.  But everyone knows her greatest gift has yet to come.    

"The doctor told us if Ava doesn't do the heart transplant, if we refuse to, she has only two months up to two years max. In other words, she will not make it to Kindergarten," said Lengsavath.

Last Christmas Ava had a stroke and was diagnosed with a rare heart condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy, and now she's in need of a new heart.

"I was in shock, what do you mean?," said Skip recalling the memory.  "I've never seen a baby that has a stroke before," said Ava's mother Anousone through tears.

Ava's mother doesn't have to speak English for any parent to understand the pain and worry she is feeling for her baby girl.

"That was the most disturbing thing I've ever seen in my life, seeing your 3 1/2-year-old shaking," said Skip.

Dr. Jonathan Johnson, Medical Director of Mayo Clinic's Pediatric Heart Transplant Program says they perform on average five to six pediatric heart transplants a year.  Although they only see about one case a year like Ava's, it's not impossible to find a donor.

"Unfortunately that means something awful has to happen to somebody's child, but hopefully out of something bad, something good can happen,"  said Johnson

In the meantime, Ava is connected to an ECMO, essentially a large machine acting like her heart pumping blood to her body and oxygen to her lungs.

"That machine is the reason she is alive, if we took it off, she would not survive," said Johnson

"For everyone out there as a parent, I have never asked for anything, if you have a big heart please help my daughter," said Skip.

While Ava's parents wait patiently for that phone call, "every time I see the 507 area code, I hope it's her heart," said Skip, Ava will continue to smile and sing along just like her Disney role model Moana because there are no limits to far she'll go to live.

Because of mounting medical expenses the family is in the process of selling their house.  Ava's mother Anousone also had to leave her job to be closer to Ava. If you'd like to help the family, you can donate to their GoFundMe by clicking here.


Laura Lee

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