SENOIA, Ga. - At 19-months, Adalyn Bradfield is so little, but so fierce. Her parents Jessalyn and Alan Bradfield have seen it again and again.
"It's amazing to watch an infant fight with everything they have to survive and just to see the kind of courage she has,” says Alan Bradfield.
Months before the Bradfields' first child was born, doctors spotted a problem, with her heart.
"So half way through pregnancy, she was diagnosed," Jessalyn Bradfield says.
That's how the Senoia couple found themselves at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
“They just did lots of ultrasounds, tons of pictures, collaborating of minds,” says Alan. “And they told us she has a heart block."
Adalyn had a rare disorder disrupting the electrical nerve impulses that control the rhythm and pumping of her heart muscle.
The Bradfields were told their baby may not make it to birth. But, she did. On the first day of her life, she was transferred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and underwent her first open heart surgery. Doctors put in a tiny pacemaker. Adalyn pulled through. But, then, a major complication.
"Adelyn had an infection from her first surgery.” Jessalyn Bradfield says. “They had to go in and remove the whole pacemaker, clear out the infection. And, then, they soon would go back in and put in a new pacemaker in a different area of her 6-pound little body."
Adalyn would spend the first 4 month of life in the Children's Healthcare's Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, undergoing 5 surgeries. Each time, the Bradfields would hold their breath and pray. And, and each time, Adalyn would rally and pull through.
"A lot of the nurses, (with Adalyn) under sedation and medicine and all the things going on in the CICU, they would say, 'Ooh, she is feisty,'" her father says.
So, Adalyn's parents took their cue from her. If she could bear this, so could they.
"I just wanted to stand strong,” Jessalyn says. “And watching her fight for her life, and have such resilience, just the ability to survive was amazing to see."
Then, back home this fall, Adalyn contracted a bacterial infection that got into her bloodstream.
"For her it was catastrophe,” her mother says. “Due to her heart condition. She hit rock bottom very quick. But thankfully at Children's, the team got her stable within hours."
Adalyn has earned hundreds of Beads of Courage, one for each needle stick, each procedure, each night in the hospital.
"As a person, you have the inkling to ask ‘why.” Alan Bradfield says. “ But questions like that are not the best questions to ask."
Instead, the Bradfields chose to trust the medical team, each other, their faith.
“And you kind of find out what you're made of.” says Alan. “If the things you believe in hold up."
This Christmas, their grateful for this little girl -- with so much heart.
"A lot fun, a lot of fight, a lot of courage,” her dad says.
And a lot of love.