The first holds
snapshots taken when Helen was a baby, even more helpless than most
infants. She’s hooked up to an assortment of tubes and monitors, and
bandages protect an incision across her tiny chest. "I still get
choked up," says her dad, Tom Kraklow.
The second album
prompts proud smiles from Tom and his wife, Donna. It documents Helen
as a strong 10-year-old, tearfully being crowned last January as Miss
Milwaukee Jr. The girl who had received the last rites of the Catholic
church as a baby had grown up and danced her way to the pageant’s
Helen was born
with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a deformity defined by an
underdeveloped left ventricle. It leaves babies with dangerously poor
circulation because the left ventricle is the chamber that pumps
oxygen-rich blood into the aorta, which then sends the blood to the
into their pregnancy, the Waukesha couple learned that Helen had this
serious heart abnormality. The news was stunning — not only did they
already have one healthy child, this pregnancy had been trouble-free.
starting to suspect a kidney problem, and when they looked at the
ultrasound they found the heart problem," says Donna Kraklow. The
couple and their doctors at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin began
Helen was born
at 36 weeks (four weeks early) at Children’s Hospital, a hopeful 6
lbs., 6 oz., and taken three floors down to its Herma Heart Center. A
series of reconstructive surgeries was planned to change the way the
blood is pumped into, through and out of the heart.
amazing stuff," says Donna Kraklow. "When they’re doing
this, the heart is the size of a strawberry."
Helen was 3 days
old when she had the first surgery. There was a setback at 11 days
when she went into cardiac arrest, but she was able to go home when
she was 5 weeks old.
surgery came when she was 3 months old — doctors wait that long to
let the lungs develop — the third was when she was 3 years old, and
the last one at age 4.
cannot complete the course of surgery and need a heart transplant,
notes Dr. Michele Frommelt, the pediatric cardiologist who has managed
Helen’s care since before she was born.
done well with each of the surgeries she’s had, kind of flown
through them," says Frommelt, who still sees her every three
months. Helen also takes several medications.
The Kraklows are
a busy family, and Helen keeps right up. Her older sister, Evelyn, was
the previous Miss Milwaukee Jr., and younger brother Oliver (who was
born healthy) is a soccer player. Tom and Donna run Kraklow Family
Dentistry in Waukesha.
Helen has taken
dance lessons since she was 3, and now competes in dance. She gets
straight A’s at St. Mary’s School in Waukesha and also plays the
treated her like a china dollbecause of this," says Tom Kraklow.
"Her physical fitness level with dance has kept her
awarded a Make-A-Wish trip to Hollywood to meet the cast of Disney
Channel’s "Good Luck Charlie," so she’s volunteered for
that cause among others.
"I feel the
heart organizations are important because without my heart surgeries I
probably wouldn’t be here," says Helen.
for pediatric heart cases have improved over the past 10 to 15 years,
Frommelt says, giving doctors more patients to track into their teen
years and 20s.
done remarkably well," adds Frommelt.
Keep on dancin’