Family Finds Comfort

When Amy and David Gagel first saw RaeAnn’s photo, they knew she would be their daughter. But when they read the physician’s report from China, the Gagels wanted to know more. RaeAnn’s diagnosis: transposition of the great arteries, pulmonary stenosis and ventricular septal defect. What would life look like once RaeAnn was adopted and home in Paragould, Ark.?

Amy started calling children’s hospitals in September 2017. When she spoke on the phone to a cardiologist at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in December 2017, she knew she had found the right place.

“My biggest concern was, how do we get her home alive,” Amy said. “We’ve never had a kid who was sick. Do we need oxygen on the plane? How do we maneuver this?” RaeAnn arrived in the United States on Jan. 15, 2018. Three days later, she met her cardiology team at the Le Bonheur clinic in Jonesboro, Ark.

While her first year stateside was filled with learning English and seeing the ocean for the first time, RaeAnn spent nearly a third of the year at Le Bonheur. Her heart condition worsened until she was in heart failure. She had three surgeries and three cath lab procedures. The latest surgery in November repaired her mitral valve and replaced her tricuspid valve.


While 90 minutes from home, the Gagels called FedExFamily-House their home away from home.

It’s the only facility in Memphis that provides free lodging to families receiving care at Le Bonheur.

Patient families are referred to the house by their social worker or coordinator.

“When we’re tired and weary we have a place to come that is right across the street from the hospital, and we can sleep without the sounds of beeping monitors. A good night of sleep allowed me to be a better mom to RaeAnn,” Amy said.

The Heart Institute medical staff sees the positive impact FedExFamilyHouse can have on a child’s recovery.

“Long-term hospitalization can be a tremendous burden on a child’s family – especially if the hospital is far from home. FedExFamilyHouse alleviates a big burden for our families – and does it in a very comfortable manner. FedExFamilyHouse helps keep families together in a challenging season,” said Heart Institute Co-Director and Cardiovascular Surgeon Christopher Knott-Craig, MD.

RaeAnn is doing well now, but she’ll always need the team at Le Bonheur. The family makes the trip to Memphis regularly for RaeAnn’s check-ups and often stays at the house.

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