BROOKVILLE — Ivy Kiesling has always dreamed of living under the sea, just like Nickelodeon cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants, and a few months ago, her dream came true, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
It took quite a lot of time and concern, however, before her wish could come true, but today, she welcomes guests, such as younger sister Haley, to her Pineapple Clubhouse in her back yard.
Years before that, however, Ivy’s family — which includes parents Mary and Tim Hulse, Haley and older sisters Holly and Alex Kiesling — learned before she was born at West Penn Hospital that she would need a heart transplant.
“They packed her up in a baby incubator and immediately transported her to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh,” her mother, Mary Hulse, said.
Mary said she began losing weight when she was nine months pregnant, and after sonograms in Brookville and Pittsburgh, she learned her unborn daughter would need a heart.
Ivy’s condition was a dilated cardio-myopethry Cardiomyopathy, which literally means “heart muscle disease,” or the deterioration of the function of the myocardium, the actual heart muscle, for any reason.
People with cardiomyopathy are often at risk of arrhythmia or sudden cardiac death or both.
“That means that her left ventricle didn’t pump the blood out, and it just pooled there,” Mary said. “It caused her heart to enlarge, and because the blood pooled there, and her heart enlarged, it pushed all of her other organs out of her chest cavity, so she had all kinds of space there and could’ve accommodated a larger heart than she received.”
Three months after her birth, Ivy received a new heart, but the waiting wasn’t easy. While waiting, Ivy was placed in a medically-induced coma and placed on a ventilator.
“It was a very tough time for me,” Mary said. “I certainly don’t want to ever go through something like that again.”
While Mary stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh, Holly and Alex were cared for by friends and family.
Ivy came home for her first Christmas Dec. 23, 1996.
Since her transplant, Ivy has experienced a couple of episodes, including a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) in 2006, which is advised for selected groups of patients with significant narrowings and blockages of the heart arteries (coronary artery disease).
The surgery creates new routes around narrowed and blocked arteries, allowing sufficient blood flow to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle.
“She had gone for a routine check-up, and it was discovered that Ivy had a 99 percent blockage of her coronary artery,” Mary said. “She didn’t have any signs or symptoms, and everything appeared fine.”
Doctors were unsure why Ivy’s heart had developed this problem, since she was receiving testing every six months.
Following this setback, as well as an earlier rejection of the new heart by Ivy’s body — the combination of the flu and not keeping her meds down for a short while — it was during this time that Mary talked to Ivy about what she wanted for her wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The first time she was approached by Make-A-Wish when she was very young, Ivy said her wish was french fries from McDonald’s. After the blockage episode, however, they thought it was time for Ivy to make her wish.
Citing SpongeBob SquarePants as her favorite show, Ivy said she wanted a Pineapple Clubhouse, like the one in which he lives at Bikini Bottom beneath the ocean.
Seeing other kids’ wishes — including a school bus made into a clubhouse — helped Ivy make her wish, and Sept. 10, it came true.
“When I first saw it, I said it was awesome,” Ivy said. She describes the clubhouse as a hideout from her older sisters Holly and Alex, although younger sister Hope has been invited in on several occasions.
Mary said the clubhouse — constructed by Cypress Clock and Gift Shop in Rose Township — also has a loft, a deck, bench, beanbag chairs and a built-in table for Ivy’s laptop. Holly also contributed a foam mattress topper for the loft.
“Make-A-Wish also contributed a battery-operated lantern so she can see inside at night.
Recently, Ivy and her grandma, Eileen, placed Christmas lights on the clubhouse.
Ivy said the entire Pineapple Clubhouse was a complete surprise.
“I didn’t think Make-A-Wish could do it,” she said.
Preparing for the unveiling, Eileen took Ivy for a ride while blindfolded. Ivy said she had no idea that she was entering the clubhouse when she came home.
“When I saw it I, couldn’t believe it,” she said.