It was a heartfelt reunion at Miami Children's Hospital Monday, when cardiac patients and their families thanked the doctors and nurses they credit for saving their lives.
"I used to breathe through my mouth, now I can breathe through my nose," said patient Karlie Mikhail.
She can smile too.
Ten-year-old Mikhail was one of dozens of heart patients who celebrated their recovery from open heart surgery with carnival-type food, and music and games hosted by Radio Disney.
"All the other hospitals and doctors thought it was just bronchitis or asthma and she had none of those things, and she could have really died," said Karlie's father Paul Mikhail.
Cardiac surgeon Dr. Robert Hannan says doctors have operated on more than 7,000 patients in the last 17 years.
"We appreciated so much the trust the families put in us, and we take care of these children like they're our very own," said Dr. Hannan.
Barbara Smith's daughter Brooke had a congenital heart defect at age 7 and was often tired.
"We came here for a second opinion and the work Dr. Burke performed literally saved her life," said Smith.
She says her daughter's energy levels are back.
Kamilah Wallen, whose 8-month-old baby is still in the hospital says she found heartfelt support.
"When you meet other moms that have done it, and they're still married, their other children are still healthy and doing well and prospering it gives you hope," said Wallen.
Katie has never left the hospital since she was born, and has been through five open heart surgeries.
But 18-year-old Gabriella Russotti is proof you can be a regular kid, even after eight operations.
"We can still lead normal lives, I still have big dreams, I'm going to go to college in the fall," she added.