Mighty Blog

Running with her whole heart: Delina’s story

Did you know? One in 240 babies born in the United States each year are born with a congenital heart defect known as ventricular septal defect (VSD). Delina was one of those 240 babies.

What it means to have a VSD is that Delina, now 30 years old, was born with a hole in her heart. It was recommended that they watch her VSD closely rather than do surgery right away. So, Delina lived 27 years before needing surgery to repair her heart.

Growing up with a congenital heart defect

Despite her condition, Delina said growing up, her diagnosis didn’t really change her opportunities to be a kid.

“I didn’t notice my heart issue a ton. The doctors just told me I should continue to monitor it,” Delina said. She grew up with little-to-no symptoms of having a heart defect.

In 2017, Delina became an avid runner – she trained and ran the Twin Cities 10-mile race in October. “Immediately after the race, I was super excited and wanted to run it again [the] next year,” she said.

Little did she know, she would be having heart surgery in just a few months.

Delina and her brother after a race

Time to repair Delina’s heart

From age 22 through 27, Delina felt some mild side effects of her heart defect but wasn’t sure what they were from. “It kind of snuck up on me,” she said. “I was talking with friends and they weren’t feeling the same things I was like: Chest pain, it was harder to exercise or running out of breath doing simple things.”

Delina met with Dr. Kelly Han, pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Minnesota, to discuss her options. “She explained what the criteria was for surgery [to repair the defect], and said I should’ve gotten this done at age 18,” said Delina. “Sometimes VSDs close on their own, but mine never closed.”

On May 8, 2018, at age 27, Delina had open heart surgery at Children’s Minnesota to repair her heart defect.

Delina at Children's Minnesota after her open heart surgery at the age of 27

Delina’s Children’s Minnesota experience

Although Delina was an adult at Children’s Minnesota, she still had an amazing experience.

“I liked how they still let me participate in the programs other heart patients who are kids go through,” she said. Delina was given a heart pillow, a quilt and a bead necklace – just like everyone else.

Giving back to Children’s Minnesota

Delina spent six days in the hospital recovering from her open-heart surgery. “I had a few months off of work to recover where I binge-watched Netflix shows and went on walks with my dog,” said Delina.

But her open-heart surgery didn’t stop her from getting back to running. When Delina said she wanted to run the next Twin Cities 10-mile race, she meant it – surgery and all.

Five months after heart surgery, Delina ran her race. She didn’t stop there. On her one-year anniversary of her heart surgery, Delina ran a half marathon with her brother.

Joining Team Superstars

Delina runs all these races while raising money for Children’s Minnesota. In 2019 after her surgery, she signed up to be on Team Superstars, our charity team of athletes.

“I looked at my heart journey and was like, ‘Wow, you’re lucky. You’re going to be fine and other people won’t always be that lucky,’” Delina said. She wanted to give back to the kids and the heart program at Children’s Minnesota.

Delina was on the ICU floor where she heard about other people’s heart journeys. “I saw kids who were celebrating their birthdays in the hospital because they had been there so long,” she said. “I wanted to give back to those kids.”

Delina set up a fundraising goal of $1,500 for her marathon run that was supposed to happen in June 2020. Even though COVID-19 has delayed that race for now, she is still raising money for Children’s Minnesota in hopes to reach her goal by the time she can run her first marathon!

Donate to Delina’s fundraising page

Alexandra Rothstein