Reese and Riley, twin girls, were born six weeks early on August 22, 2005. Reese was born a healthy little girl, but Riley was born a fighter.
When asked, Riley will tell you, "I have a special heart."
Six days after Riley was born, she went in for her first surgery. However, that surgery turned into three rather quickly.
The twin's mother, Christi Vaerten says, "Riley's first surgery did not go so good. Whatever could have went wrong did. So, we didn't even know at that point if she was going to make it home."
Even before Riley was born, from the ultra sound while Christi was pregnant with the girls, they knew there was something wrong with Riley's heart. Reese appeared to be fine.
"Riley has atrial septal defect (ASD),also known as a hole in the heart and is a type of congenital heart disease," Christi said. "She also has a ventricular septal defect ( VSD), small right ventricle , heterotaxy syndrome with asplenia, Tricuspid Valve Atresia , pulmonary valve atresia , d-transposition of the great arteries and a right aortic arch ,"
Riley is essentially living with just half a working heart today.
"She's got the full left side of her heart, which is good since it's her pumping side. A lot of kids are born without the left side," Christi said.
Looking at Riley today, Christi can't believe how far her daughter has come in her five years of life. "When she was born she had a feeding tube, she wasn't taking a bottle by mouth till she was about almost two years old and even then she was only drinking a couple of ounces at a time."
Riley was fed around the clock every three hours for three years. But now, at five years old, she's finally caught up to her twin sister. She did however, undergo her fifth surgery just over a year ago.
"It's really hard to explain to a five year old that you got this big surgery to go through," Riley's father Troy Vaerten said. "I don't think she got it until after the surgery."
It's a waiting game now to see how Riley's body will handle all the surgeries. Wait and hope for the best.
Reese and Riley are best friends and are constantly together. It's a bond that is even strong at heart.