Cara Ann McGettigan is a 5 years old girl with a big heart. Cara was born on November 17, 2011 in The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Special Delivery Unit. Cara's parents, Mary and Don, learned before she was born that she had several complex heart defects that would need to be corrected after birth. She had a Ventricular Septal Defect or large muscular VSD (a large hole between the two lower-chambers of the heart – almost as if there were only 3, instead of 4, chambers in total), as well as a more severe coarctation, or narrowing, of the aorta arch. The good news was that both were able to be repaired with synthetic materials, and there was nowhere better to be than CHOP! 27 hours after Cara was born, she underwent open heart surgery for the repairs. The surgery was successful, and soon Cara was speeding her way through recovery in the CICU and at home just 7 days from surgery on the day after Thanksgiving. During surgery, Cara's vocal cords were paralyzed, which required her to feed from an NG tube for 4 months and to visit the ENT and GI doctors for many follow-up appointments. However, Cara hasn’t looked back since her heart was repaired and that tube came out! If you asked Cara today, she would tell you her "heart was broken, and CHOP fixed it".
Cara is the middle sister and she sees that as a special job. She is the little sister of Leah and the big sister of James, and she has a chocolate lab named Bella. She is in Pre-K, is a ballet and tap dancer, and is a gymnast. She loves summer days playing on the beach, winter days playing in the snow, and fall and spring days at the playground. She loves food, coloring, spending time with her family, singing, and dancing. Her favorite song is "Baby" by Justin Bieber. She She just enjoys life with few rules, little inhibition, and a full heart. From before she was born, Cara was called "Sweetheart" and since her surgery, her doctors have referred to her as "a miracle baby", "a rockstar", and healthy! She wears her zipper scar proudly.
In gratitude for the outstanding and exceptional care they received, the McGettigan family has organized an annual holiday toy drive supporting CHOP and the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House and they also formed a non-profit organization named Cara's Sweethearts supporting local children's hospitals and their programs.