ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KOAT) -- Katherine Lange, a 5-year-old girl full of life, is now fighting for her life on a day-to-day basis. Her father, Gary Lange, said she was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome before she was born.

"We got diagnosed at 20 weeks pregnant and found out we were going to have this heart defect and they gave us some options," Lange said. "They told us 'well, you're going to have to go to Colorado, or somewhere else because nobody in New Mexico can do the surgeries.'"

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a rare heart defect that causes the left side of the heart to be underdeveloped. The syndrome results in difficulties breathing among other symptoms.

"She's had three open heart surgeries. One at four days old, one at four months old and one at 2.5 years of age," Lange said. "She's had approximately ten heart catheterizations. Just in the last 12 months, she's had over 40 blood draws. She is set for her 11th heart catheterization procedure before the end of the year. You see this perfect healthy child and you also know at one minute, she can have a stroke."

Katherine's heart condition is just half the battle. Her father said she currently deals with liver leakage.

"It's called protein-losing enteropathy and it has to do with the lymphatic system leaking into the liver and blood goes through the pathways through resistance and pushes down on the liver, which is causing her albumin to leak," Lange said.

However, Lange said if all else fails, Katherine would need a liver and heart transplant to save her life.

"She's on numerous medications and they will keep trying to control it as long as they keep her on medication and then eventually she would probably start to go downhill, and we're going to have to make other decisions."

Despite Katherine's day-to-day struggles, Lange describes his daughter as loving, caring and free-spirited.

"She's very caring, very empathetic and she loves people. Anytime she sees someone sick, she's really concerned about them," Lange said. "She's 5 years old. She's been through so much in life already, but that doesn't stop her from caring about other people and being the best human being she can be."

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"I want to raise awareness," Lange said. "Know that you're not alone. There are people here to help you."


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