Mighty Blog

Kisses for Kenzie – one family’s dedication to Virtual Walk for Amazing

Kenzie is a spunky, sassy almost-6-year-old girl who takes on every challenge in her wake. Her biggest challenge to date: Teaching her heart to be as strong as a warrior.

Born on May 22, 2015, Kenzie weighed just over four pounds when she was born. She has multiple heart conditions including a complete heart block, cardiomyopathy (heart failure) and atrial septal defect (ASD). These complications lead to Kenzie having three surgeries (so far).

Kenzie’s hospital stays and surgeries

A few hours after birth, Kenzie’s family was informed that Kenzie would need her first emergency surgery because her heart wasn’t in the condition the doctors had hoped. Her care team gave her a temporary pacemaker until she was able to grow more.

“That whole day was a whirlwind of multiple emotions, from anger, guilt, tears and joy once she was born,” said Kenzie’s mom, Jessica.

After only two months of being at home, Kenzie abruptly stopped eating. Kenzie was readmitted to the hospital where they found that she was in heart failure. A feeding tube was placed, which she would need to use from 3.5 months old to 3.5 years old.

Kenzie in a Children's Minnesota shirt at the hospital.

Coinciding with that, they found out Kenzie also had neonatal lupus, which caused painful open wounds all over her body.

Kenzie’s third surgery

Kenzie as a child with scars.

Kenzie went through another unexpected surgery when she was almost 3 years old.

Her pacemaker stopped working randomly which led to her chest being opened a third time.

“Everyone—even the nurses—said even when she was an infant that she had something special about her, she’s smart, she’s resilient,” Jessica said.

Jessica expects Kenzie to need another surgery in the coming years.

Kenzie today

Kenzie will turn 6 years old on May 22, 2021. “Kenzie started kindergarten this year,” Jessica said. “She’s a social butterfly and is having fun meeting new friends.”

Kenzie is facing another surgery in a year and a half, which will replace her pacemaker; in the meantime, her Children’s Minnesota team continues to keep tabs on her and her health. Jessica described what it was like to receive care during COVID-19: “Her care team wore clear masks so their full faces and smiles were visible. They’re doing their best to make kids feel comfortable and safe.”

Kenzie has taught Jessica a lot of life lessons in her short years. “I think she’s given me the strength I have now — seeing an infant go through something like this and survive, and come out healthy, it shows you how strong someone can be when they need to be,” said Kenzie’s mom.

Kenzie and her mom

Team Kisses for Kenzie

Kenzie saying thank you for donating

Kenzie’s family is excited to participate in this year’s Virtual Walk for Amazing.

“We do it to raise awareness. We’ve come across all walks of life, and all kinds of medical complications that affect kids that we didn’t know about,” said Jessica. “We love that anyone can participate, even if they’re not local to the Twin Cities.”

Kenzie, Jessica, and their family and friends give back to Children’s Minnesota in every way they can.

From participating in the annual walk to volunteering together, they’re happy to do so. “We cannot thank the entire Children’s [Minnesota] hospital staff enough for everything they have done to repeatedly save Kenzie’s life,” said Jessica.

The 2021 Virtual Walk for Amazing

Join Kenzie and her family at this year’s Virtual Walk for Amazing and move, shake, raise much-needed funds—and say “thank you” in a very special way. Register for free right now—it’s easy to create a team with friends and family or join one like Kenzie’s. Or you can register as an individual; either way, you’ll be supporting Children’s Minnesota’s highly specialized, compassionate family-centered care.

Alexandra Rothstein