Our Story

On November 4, 2019, our family was blessed with a beautiful baby girl named Ava Jaymes StemhagenJaymes because her daddy is a fan of basketball superstar LeBron James. Ava was born with pulmonary valve atresia with intact ventricular septum, a rare congenital heart defect. Because her little heart could not pump blood to the lungs adequately, she had to have open-heart surgery just days after her birth. Doctors surgically implanted a flexible plastic tube called a shunt to help her blood flow from one area to another. Then, Ava became a prime candidate for a heart transplant.
Five months later, she had to undergo a second open-heart surgery, which the surgeons attempted to correct several complications. If successful, the operations would have kept her steady for at least several years. Unfortunately, the operation did not work. After numerous trips in and out of the hospital over the following 6 to 8 weeks, Ava was airlifted to Seattle Children’s Hospital. There, they performed yet another procedure going up through a vein in her tiny leg, then put her on the transplant list. This new surgery helped keep her stable until a donor heart was received on September 17, 2020.
Ava has had several complications and setbacks after receiving her new heart. A few days after the transplant, the heart stopped suddenly. Compressions got it pumping again, but another procedure was needed to restitch and close a leaky valve. This eventually caused Ava’s chest to be reopened twice to resolve the problem.
We hope that the worst is over so that she has the opportunity to move and play like other babies and thus have a new beginning. Ava has been giggling in her sleep since she was born. We’re now hoping she has a chance to be happy while awake and experience life outside of a hospital bed for the first time in her little life. Thank you for your support, comfort, and encouragement.

The Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) helps children and young adults who need a life-saving transplant by providing fundraising assistance and family support. COTA is the nation’s only fundraising organization solely dedicated to raising life-saving dollars in honor of transplant-needy children and young adults. 100% of each contribution made to COTA in honor of our patients helps meet transplant-related expenses. COTA’s services are free to our families, and gifts to COTA are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.