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Gabriella’s Sparkly New Heart

I had the honor of meeting and photographing a very special little girl and her family over the weekend. Meet Gabriella Vega, a sweet and caring little girl who has gone through so much in her short life. From her mother’s (Kristi’s) blog: “Gabriella was diagnosed in April with a severe and irrepairable case of Myocardial Bridging which is causing Secondary Restrictive Cardiomyopathy. September 25, just before being listed for her new heart, she suffered a left MCA stroke, imparing her right arm abilities and taking away her speech.” She is patiently waiting on the donor list for her “sparkly new heart” as they fondly refer to it in her family. After all, Kristi says, how else do you explain to a 5-year-old about a heart transplant? This story hits home for me. You see, Gabriella is just a few months younger than my Abigail. I can’t imagine being in their shoes, and yet, they endure this trial with insurmountable faith and peace. They are one of the nicest, loving, and most grateful families you could meet, and it was my pleasure to be able to photograph them.

If you know me or have ever shot with me, you’ll know that I love COLOR, and we had plenty of it at our session!

LOVE the smiles here!

AND here!

They brought along Gabriella’s Candy Land set, which Kristi attributes to getting them through their hospital stays. Apparently, Gabriella is unbeatable. We’d make a great pair because I’ve NEVER won at Candy Land!


Amazingly, we did not lose a single balloon at this shoot. I attribute this to LONG strings and well placed feet.:)

You guys have good genes:)

Then, it was tutu time-Kristi made this, and you could tell that the minute Gabriella put it on, she felt like a princess! I think I might need to get one for myself:)

I am embarrassed to say that Gabriella has better toenails than I do-6 month old pedicure, anyone? *sigh*

I feel the need to explain why I love this photo. You see, most photographers would never include it-eyes closed, hair blowing in the wind. But the look on her face is so peaceful, I just had to include it. I love it in black and white:

There were so many in this series that I wanted to include. It was windy and the balloons were flying everywhere-Gabriella hung on with all of her might and had a fun time with it!

Now, I knew about Gabriella’s heart condition going into the session, but I did not know about her sparkly new heart. I happened to have these sparkly hearts from Valentine’s Day so I brought them on a whim. I am glad that I did.

You may notice that I have photographed a lot of “heart babies” or “heart kids” if you will. This sweet family was referred to me through Owen’s mommy, who was referred to me through Bela’s mommy, who also referred Lilyana. I am grateful to have met all of these wonderful families, and as far as I know, all of the children are still doing great! I stop by their blogs frequently to make sure, and occasionally run into them at Target (Avery and Andrea). May the Lord bless you all with the power of His miracles-your children have already touched my heart, and I know that they will continue to touch others along their journeys.

March 19, 2010 - 9:28 pm

Di - What a beautiful young lady…..& family. Love & Prayers.

March 15, 2010 - 4:56 pm

Sherry - These pictures are beautiful. I love the Vega family! They are great people. Gabriella is such a sweet, beautiful little girl. I can’t wait for her to get her new sparkly heart!

March 12, 2010 - 7:37 pm

Brandi - Adorable with a capital A and I LOVE the colors.

March 12, 2010 - 1:42 pm

anna - ugh… i’m in tears at work.

March 11, 2010 - 12:22 am

Kelli - These are just so perfect, Rachael! Gorgeous color, love their interactions…And I love the one you love, too…no need to explain a picture like that!

March 10, 2010 - 4:04 pm

candace - Rachael, these photos are so joyful and hopeful, but still brought tears to my eyes. This family will treasure these.

March 9, 2010 - 8:42 pm

cici - We love you Tinkerbell. The best is yet to come!

March 9, 2010 - 4:27 pm

robin cornett - LOVE that second family picture. Love it!! Gabriella is such a little beauty; this looks like a wonderful time together! The “sparkly new heart” is awesome.

March 9, 2010 - 3:32 pm

jamie burnett - She is BEAUTIFUL! I LOVE the balloons. Rachael, you are amazing!

March 9, 2010 - 3:28 pm

Janica - Oh Rachael…cuuuuuuute! The third picture is pure perfection….needs to be a huge canvas! My kind of family shot.

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