ASHLAND, Ky. — Two-year-old Bonnie Gandee, who is diagnosed with complicated congenital heart disease, is able to receive specialized heart care from University of Louisville Physicians without traveling the six-and-a-half hour round trip to Louisville.

Instead, her family can make the trip to Ashland — 25 minutes away from her hometown of Pedro, Ohio — where the pediatric cardiologists and staff, in partnership with Kosair Children’s Hospital, come every month.

The care is available from Paducah to Ashland, where children, teens and adults are afforded specialized services like outpatient clinics, diagnostic testing locally and via telemedicine, relieving patients from traveling for long time periods.

“It’s less stress on the family,” said Anna Gandee, Bonnie’s mother about the drastic difference in distance. At one point Bonnie was required to see the physicians on a monthly basis.

Bonnie’s diagnoses started while she was still in the womb. Anna was referred to a University of Louisville physician for a fetal cardiac scan after a routine ultrasound 19 weeks into her pregnancy revealed a red flag that something could be wrong with Bonnie’s heart.

Anna saw pediatric cardiologist Dr. Brian Holland in Louisville, where he gave Bonnie the diagnosis of complicated congenital heart disease, meaning her heart was missing the four chambers a normal, healthy heart has.

Her heart was only performing with one of the two main pumping chambers, forcing the blue blood in her heart to mix with the red blood. The main artery leaving her heart was also too narrow to carry the blood to the rest of her body.

Three surgeries would need to be performed in the future, with the first being two weeks after she was born. Her last surgery took place a year ago, and Bonnie is now doing “extremely well” according to UofL Physician Dr. Brad Keller, Bonnie’s regular cardiologist.

“While her long-term prognosis is unknown, we have many children who have had this kind of procedure who are very healthy into their 20s, 30s and 40s,” Keller said. “Sometimes something else will need to be done in the catheterization lab to manage blood vessel narrowing or a heart rhythm problem, or they will need other technologies or a heart transplant if the heart begins to fail.”

Bonnie now sees Keller every six months in Ashland. Anna said she does not have any restrictions and is only taking a baby aspirin every day.

She called her a “force to be reckoned with” in that she is very active and likes being the boss, especially to her older brother Wyatt.

Anna spoke highly of her experience with the UofL physicians and her ability to obtain the care her daughter needs close to home throughout her entire journey.

“I really wouldn’t change anything about the whole experience,” she said.

Information from: The Independent,