3-year-old girl returns to Berks County after successful heart surgery in free life-saving trip to CA

Three-year-old Islia is back home in Berks County after an extensive, life-changing heart surgery experience in California, thanks in part to Aero Angel. 

FOX 29's Shawnette Wilson visited her at her grandparents’ house in Lansdale and watched as she played with her two big brothers, Silous and Emyth, while breathing more easily.

"Her lungs are opened up. They’re getting the air they need. It’s getting the blood pressure they need," said her father, Ashton Stewart. 


Free life-saving trip provided to sick child in need of major heart surgery; family paying it forward

A family is paying it forward after their three-year-old daughter born with a congenital heart defect, got a free life-saving trip thanks in part to national non-profit, AeroAngel.

He and Victoria Stewart say their precious little girl does have a few temporary restrictions though.

"Just making sure she’s not being too rough with the boys. They like to play, she likes to run and we have to calm that down," said Ashton. 

But overall, the nearly 6-hour heart surgery she had is already life-changing.

"With such a complicated procedure, for how in depth it is and for it to go as perfect as it could is awesome," said her father. Islia had the highly invasive surgery on March 13th to repair holes in her heart and a narrowing in the vessels going to her arteries.

"I’m expecting her to be much worse than she is, not as active and more lethargic. The fact that we only spent 8 days in the hospital was just mind-blowing," said Victoria.

Aero Angel is a national aviation charity that flew the family on a private jet to California for the surgery. They transport critically ill children to medical procedures for free. 

An organization called Fred’s Footsteps out of Bryn Mawr made the connection. 

The isolation was crucial in keeping Islia as healthy as possible ahead of the surgery.

"It kept her out of the exposure of airports and airplanes and I think that’s what really helped us along," said Ashton.

Islia, bears a scar on her chest, a reminder of her bravery and healthy future.

"Absolutely ecstatic that she is healed, but a long road ahead of us," said Victoria. 

Islia’s parents say her lungs will always be compromised but that she’s already picking up weight and will have less with pneumonia infections. They say this may be the only surgery she will need.