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Surviving Heart Disease at Age 3

February 18. 2013

February, as you may know, is National Heart Month. Heart disease is the number one killer of women. More than all the cancer's combined, including breast cancer. But heart disease can strike at any age.

Meet Olivia Goodwin. This busy toddler doesn't let anything stand in her way. Full of energy and life. To look at her you'd never know it's a miracle she's even here. Olivia has endured more in the first 72 hours of her life than most of us will in an entire lifetime. Her mother, Marisa Goodwin remembers her delivery day.

"The doctors said don't have lunch, you're having this baby today. she was in trouble."

The doctors made the startling discovery Olivia had a heart defect. She would arrive three weeks early, with complete heart block. Essentially an electrical problem with her tiny heart.

"We knew at that point she would prob need a pacemaker at some point in her life. What we didn't know is if it would be immediately, when she's 10, 20,50"

At just three days old, the smallest pacemaker doctors could find was installed into her tiny chest.

Olivia would spend the first month of her life in the NICU at UVa. Medical Center. Marisa and her husband Kurt educated themselves, quickly becoming advocates for their first born.

"You go through that first those moments where you cry, you wonder why, you question, this isn't fair, you're angry and then ok, we're done with that let's just tackle the problem let's handle this."

Three years later, Olivia's scar is a visual reminder of her special heart. But nothing is holding her back from living a normal life with a bright future.

"She'll have some restrictions. No contact sports, nothing that will impact her chest & that's okay. We swim, we might do music. We're not going to over protect her even thought it's easy to want to do that because you fear for her," Goodwin says.

Some might call it irony or divine intervention. Years ago the Goodwins donated to the Americna Heart Association, never imagining they were paying it forward.

"Having a second child we were involved in this research directly funded by the Heart Association to prevent my second baby from having what Olivia has, and she was born, no issues whatsoever."

Marisa adds, Olivia's pacemaker doesn't define her but it's definitely made her who she is.

Olivia will be recognized at the Heart Ball, March 2nd for her journey.

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