Sweet Adalynn Rogers was born with a congenital heart condition called hypoplastic heart syndrome. Just two days after her birth in January 2016, Adalynn underwent the first of three heart surgeries that she would face in her young life.
“She had a long hard recovery after the first surgery with complications from her restricted Atrial Septum and a Chylothorax,” her family wrote on the Facebook page they created to chronicle her journey through the disease. “She got to come home just before she turned two months old.”
For the next two years, despite ongoing health hurdles related to her condition and repercussions from past surgeries, Adalynn and her family made the most of their time together, soaking up every moment.
“We love having our little girl home and try to make the best health decisions we can for her,” Adalynn’s family wrote on Facebook.
But in early November 2017, tragedy struck and Adalynn suddenly went into heart failure. Her family was told she would need a heart transplant as soon as possible. In the meantime, a mechanical pump was implanted in Adalynn’s heart, while her family waited hopefully for a heart donor.
“It was scary because we didn’t know when or if it would come,” Kristi, Adalynn’s mother, told People.
Almost three months passed with no transplant — and then in an earth-shattering turn of events, Adalynn suddenly became ineligible for a transplant.
In January of 2018, she went in for a CT scan because she had been experiencing internal bleeding. Soon after the scan, Adalynn began vomiting and, according to her doctors, she may have aspirated into her lungs. She was left without oxygen for 15-20 minutes, which was enough for severe brain damage to result for the young child.
This meant that Adalynn was no longer eligible for a transplant, and doctors had to break the news to her family that there was nothing left for them to do. Adalynn would pass within a matter of days, they were told.
“We were lost,” Justin, Adalynn’s dad tells People. “We literally just found out there is nothing else that they could possibly do to save her. All the hope that we had built up was gone. It was just a question of how much time we had left with her before we had to turn off the machine.”
That’s where Suha Dabit, a newborn and family photographer, came in. A social worker at the hospital contacted Dabit on behalf of the Rogers to capture the last heart-wrenching moments that the family would share with little Adalynn.
Dabit, whose own child was the recipient of a heart transplant, was the perfect person for the job. Dabit also runs World of Broken Hearts, an organization which raises awareness about congenital heart defects. For these reasons and more, the family was grateful to have her come and photograph their last precious moment with Adalynn.
Dabit’s photographs, shared on the Rodgers’ Facebook page, are going viral, and with good reason. These photos are raw and difficult to look at, but they depict the intense reality of losing a child to an awful condition like congenital heart disease.
The photography session started at 9 AM on January 26th, and almost three short hours later, surrounded by her brokenhearted parents and siblings, Adalynn passed.
“It was heartbreaking,” Justin tells People, reflecting on those moments. “Seeing our children have to say bye to their sister — nobody is ever prepared for that. We told her how sorry we were that all of this happened. There was not a whole lot to say except for that we’d take her place if we could.”
Besides a desire to memorialize Adalynn’s life and departure, part of the Rogers’ reason for sharing these photos is to raise awareness about the need for heart donation. After all, if Adalynn had received a donation sooner, her life may have been saved.
They also want to raise awareness about the condition itself. According to Adalynn’s benefit page on Facebook, Adalynn’s particular heart defect is more common than people realize (it affects roughly 1 in 100 newborns), and the Rogers want to shed light on this fact by sharing their photos and story.
“We didn’t know how common this condition is,” Justin tells People, “and how little people know about it.”
Despite all that the pain the Rogers family has gone through over the past few years — and especially in the past few months — their hope is to remember the love and light that their beautiful daughter brought into their lives, and into the world.
“There was never a bad moment with her,” Justin tells People. “She was literally always smiling and bringing joy to everybody around her.”