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A Mom’s Text Message Led to Life-Changing Heart Surgery for Her 10-Year-Old Daughter

Celebrating her daughter’s tenth birthday, Demetric Fisher texted a photo to pediatric cardiologist Dr. Avichal Aggarwal, who had treated her daughter as an infant. “He crossed my mind; if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have made it to 10,” says Demetric, a 45-year-old social worker in Utica, Miss.

Her daughter, Kaydan Fisher, was born with a congenital heart defect and needed three open-heart surgeries by the time she was 2 years old. Demetric and her husband Cedric were told Kaydan would likely need a heart transplant when she was in her 20s.

Aggarwal monitored Kaydan until she was 6, when he left the hospital in Mississippi to work in Texas. He gave Demetric his cell phone number and told her to stay in touch.

“Kaydan will always be close to my heart,” Aggarwal tells PEOPLE.

Kaydan’s parents and three older siblings were grateful to the doctor for saving her life. “We celebrated each birthday. But as she got older, we knew what we were facing,” Demetric says. “Her aging was a good thing, but also it was a scary thing for us because we knew what was near.”

So when Aggarwal received Demetric’s text on June 20, 2022, he called her that very afternoon to tell her about a new procedure that he — along with one of her daughter’s heart surgeons — helped pioneer. It could actually give patients a whole, healthy heart without having to go through a transplant. Aggarwal invited Kaydan to Houston to see if she met the criteria for the procedure.

“I was thrilled,” says Demetric. “It was that sign of hope. I knew for her to have a longer lifespan that she was going to need a divine intervention, but I didn’t know exactly how we were going to get there.”

It had been a long road since Kaydan was diagnosed with double outer right ventricle with multiple great arteries, which means that both of the big arteries were coming out of the right side of her heart, and the left side of her heart was very small, explains Aggarwal, who is now affiliated with the  at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and UTHealth.

In essence, Kaydan was born with half a heart, explains her heart surgeon, Dr. Jorge Salazar, co-director of the .

“There are maybe a hundred different diagnoses that can be lumped into the single diagnosis of being born with half a heart,” explains Salazar.

Kids born with half a heart can experience problems with liver, intestines, lungs and the heart itself, explains Aggarwal. “It’s very very high risk.” Some patients need a heart transplant, some are too sick to be candidates for a transplant, and some don’t live long enough to get a transplant.

Both Aggarwal and Salazar treated Kaydan as an infant in Mississippi, and now with this new procedure they are helping kids with half a heart to develop a whole, healthy heart. In the last six years, they have performed about 50 of these procedures.

“This is brand new,” Salazar says. “For decades, the only option for kids that were born with half a heart was to make the best of it.”

In the new , the smaller heart chamber is made to grow to normal size by increasing blood flow through the lungs and redirecting blood flow to make the ventricles grow, Aggarwal explains.

And the procedure works.

“We’ve now proven time and time again that not only does it grow, but it’s normal in function,” Salazar says. “You take a kid who essentially, has one hand tied behind their back, by having just half a heart and you recruit the small part of the heart, to make it bigger.”

Kaydan had the procedure February 8, 2023 and was discharged from the hospital on Valentine’s Day.

A year later, Kaydan is a healthy 11-year-old.

“Kaydan is a very happy example of a child who now has a normal heart, a normal future, and no limitations,” Salazar says.

Before the procedure, whenever Kaydan was running and playing, her mother worried that she would go into cardiac arrest.

“I always lived in fear that it was going to trigger a heart attack,” her mother says.

Now, Kaydan says she doesn’t have to be “as careful.” Kaydan got her first bike for Christmas, and is now able to ride roller coasters. She tells PEOPLE she wants to go on even bigger rides.

“She’s brave,” her mother says. “She’s fearless.”