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Penelope, 15

Henrico | Services: Surgery, Pulmonary Medicine, Orthopaedic Surgery, and Otolaryngology

When she was adopted from an orphanage in Bulgaria, Penelope Huizinga was 13 years old, weighed only 20 pounds, and was struggling with a host of severe medical conditions including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, scoliosis, and life-threatening gastroesophageal reflux that prevented her from eating. Shortly after bringing her to their Glen Allen home, her parents, Maureen and Paul, sought the help of specialists at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR).

“Our team sat down together and developed a plan that has been a great solution for Penelope,” said Maureen of the multidisciplinary team at CHoR, which included a general surgeon, orthopaedic surgeon, pulmonologist, otolaryngologist, and primary care physician. “We knew we could trust them to coordinate her medical care, and it allowed us to focus on being her parents first and foremost.”

Over the course of nearly two years, the team corrected the curve in her spine, removed her tonsils to improve her breathing, reconstructed her stomach and digestive tract to eliminate reflux, and developed a regimen of medication to help manage her epilepsy.

While she will always be medically fragile, Penelope is now much more stable. She loves reading, listening to music and, perhaps most of all, spending time with her family.

“It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the hospital has made the difference between life and death for her,” Maureen added. “It’s amazing to look at her now compared to this time last year. She wouldn’t have made it a lot longer. Today, she’s in a very good place.”

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