STERLING, Illinois -- A young heart disease survivor is putting on her best dress as she prepares to be shuffled into royal status.
Hannah Wells an 11-year-old 6th grader from Bettendorf, Iowa has been selected to be the Princess of the Quad Cities Heart Ball, hosted by the American Heart Association.
Before Hannah was born she was diagnosed with critical aortic stenosis, which refers to the narrowing of a valve and leads to hypoplastic left heart syndrome after birth.
“What that means is eventually the child only will have half of a heart,” said Kim Wells, Hannah’s mother. Since birth, Hannah has fought through two open heart surgeries and five procedures.
As it stands, Hannah has frequent checkups, but hasn’t had a surgery since 2014.
While preparing for the 2018 Quad Cities Heart Ball, organizers with the American Heart Association decided to nominate a princess to represent childhood heart conditions.
Brittany Rendon, the AHA’s corporate events director, said a doctor recommended Hannah for the honor.
“Heart disease has always been thought of as a man’s disease, as an older person’s disease, but it does affect everyone… so I think that it’s important to have that child survivor to show how real this issue is,” said Brittany.
Kim said that when Hannah was a baby, she worried about what the future would hold. She described the beginning of the journey as a “desperate time” with a lot of uncertainties. Today, she has a completely different outlook.
“To look back over the last 11 years and to know how far she’s come, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s a sweetheart, she’s got a heart of gold…” said Kim. “We’re living a life, even though we have a child with a congenital heart defect, we’re still living a life that’s fulfilled, and loving, and beautiful and I don’t live every day worrying about my child, which… I thought I would.”
The mother and daughter pair spent some time Thursday, February 22nd browsing dresses at UOI Boutique in Sterling for Hannah to wear to the ball. UOI donated the gown Hannah chose, which was a mint-colored, floor length gown with layered cap sleeves.
The boutique arranged for an on-the-spot fitting and alterations.
When the big day comes, Hannah said she’s looking forward to the dancing.
“My sister said she was gonna dance with me, and her boyfriend said that he wanted to dance with me too,” she said.
The Heart Ball is scheduled for Saturday, March 3rd. Click here to see event information.
Hannah’s family has started a nonprofit organization of their own called “Helping Hannah’s Heart,” which distributes funds to families affected by heart disease. Click here to learn more about how the organization helps area families and how you can donate.