Grandparents are always bragging about their grandchildren. But in the case of Juniper Sharp, who turns 2 on Saturday, she really never ceases to amaze people.
“She had a full-blown open-heart surgery, with the broken chest and everything,” said her grandmother, Rita Krouskop. “And then a couple days later, she’s walking, and you can pick her up. It’s truly amazing.”
Truly amazing has followed Juniper around for her two years on this planet. She was born with 22q Deletion Syndrome, sometimes called DiGeorge Syndrome. She was born with a small amount of genetic material missing.
Juniper was born to Hannah and Russell Sharp on Feb. 20, 2019, and didn’t immediately show any signs of problems. About two hours later, she started turning blue. After some tests, they discovered a heart murmur.
“She had open-heart surgery on a Wednesday, and then Saturday she’s on the floor, raising her arms with her chest glued together,” said her grandfather, Dwayne Krouskop. “She’s an amazing little girl.”
Her family shared her story at Lima Mayor David Berger’s weekly press conference Wednesday. Juniper and her parents couldn’t attend because of deficiencies in her immunization systems. Berger proclaimed Feb. 7-14 Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week in Lima. There are more than 40,000 babies born each year with a congenital heart defect.
“We urge all citizens to educate themselves on how this disease affects many families in our community by reading about patients and their family experiences,” Berger said.
The fact Juniper thrives now is also truly amazing, said Dr. Pamela Gardner, of Lima Memorial Health System.
“This little girl has none of the developmental delays mentally and physically. Moving ahead, she’s doing great,” Gardner said. “We’re super excited about it, but had that not been picked up early, she would not have made it to her first birthday, much less her second.”
Q22 Deletion Syndrome usually comes with heart, immune, learning, speech and behavior difficulties. Juniper is a bit undersized and has a compromised immune system, but she’s doing well otherwise, her grandparents said.
She’ll need another heart surgery sometime between the ages of 8 and 12. She’ll be slowed by limitations throughout her life, but they don’t have to stop her.
“The surgeon told us, ‘You know, she’s not going to be an Olympic cross country runner,’” Dwayne Krouskop recalled. “But she may be able to run cross country in high school. You know, anything’s possible.”
The family wants to make people aware of Q22 Deletion Syndrome, but their mission is bigger than awareness for that one ailment. They want people to think about Juniper when there are discussions about lifetime caps on health insurance spending, since her continued care could be quite costly. They want people to know Amazon will donate to many good causes when you’re shopping on it just by using Amazon Smile and choosing an organization.
But most of all, they want you to know Juniper is amazing. It’s hard to argue against that, given everything she’s overcome already.