Cardiac patients at Miami Children's Hospital reunited with doctors and medical staff for a celebration of life, love, and family Monday.
"This is our most joyous event of the entire year," Dr. Robert Hannan said.
More than 300 patients and their families hugged doctors and shared success stories. Many people at the event were born with heart defects.
"We held him for maybe two minutes before surgery, and then it was three weeks before we even got to hold him again," recalled Donna Dickerson, the mother of a patient.
Hula-hoops, face paint and fun in the photo booth made for a perfect party fit for these survivors.
"He's healthy and he's here with us today because of the cardiac team," Adriana Alonso said of her son as she held him at the event.
When a congenital heart disorder patient becomes an adult the treatment doesn't stop for them at Miami Children's Hospital. The hospital also has an adult heart program for both first-time patients and for patients who have been seeing their doctors since they were kids.
"When children are born with congenital heart disease, they have that heart disease their whole life. In fact, we've operated on people in their 60s and 70s here," Hannan said.
One adult patient is Hialeah Councilman Paul Hernandez. He has been working to pass legislation that benefits the congenital heart community.
"I've had five heart surgeries in total. Three open-heart and two catheterizations," Hernandez said.
The doctors say they look forward to this event every year because they get to see smiling, healthy faces.
"All the late nights, all the weekends in the hospital, all the struggles with the families. This makes it all worthwhile," said Dr. Anthony Rossi, the director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Miami Children's Hospital.