A Hearty Life


Leah (left) and her best friend Alina Davis pose for a picture.

The day Leah Moenning was born was the happiest day of her parents’ lives.
But they had no clue…

On April 19, 2004, little Leah Moenning ’22 was born at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver, Colorado. This is probably the best day of any parent’s life, and for Matt and Lisa Moenning, it was, but when Leah was born, the doctors knew something was wrong.

Moenning was born with tetralogy of Fallot and pulmonary atresia, meaning there was very little blood flowing to her lungs from her pulmonary artery, and there was a hole in her heart that was causing the restriction.

Moenning was transferred to a children’s hospital in Denver. Her parents were very scared. They cried, prayed, and sang to Moenning. They stayed with her 24/7, but it was hard for them because they also had a son and daughter who were home at Fort Collins. After 10 days, she had heart surgery. The doctors performed surgery with her heart stopped.

A perfusionist ran her blood out of her body and through a machine that oxygenates it. Then, the blood is put back into her body.

Her heart was stopped for 45 minutes.

The surgeons explained that Moenning’s heart was the size of a walnut, and they had to put a gore-tex patch in her heart. They also used a jugular vein from a cow to open up a passageway to get blood through her pulmonary valve.

After the surgery, the doctors noticed that Moenning’s heart was not beating very well, and they had to work very hard to get it working properly. Moenning was hooked up to many wires, and she had a hard time growing and feeding. She had to be put on an oxygen tank, and she was on a feeding tube for a few months.

After two and a half years, Meonning was finally growing well. Her parents were relieved, but they were also worried that she would require another surgery before she was five years old. She didn’t have another surgery until she was 11. Moenning remembers being terrified of the surgery she got at 11 years old because this time she could remember it. She remembers her face being covered with a sleeping mask while her parents were by her side.

After she woke up, she could feel the awful pain coming from her throat because it was so dry. Her sibling came and entertained her after the surgery. During the night Meonning would wake up in immense pain. A nurse would come in and take her on walks which made her feel much better.

A day after surgery, Meonning finally got to go home. She had a check-up two weeks later, but after that, she was finally done with constantly being in the hospital.

Now Moenning is 15 years old. She enjoys babysitting kids and says she may want to be a pediatrician when she grows up. “I honestly don’t know why I like kids. I just like teaching them new things and hearing what they think about the world,” Moenning said.

Moenning is used to being around children because she babysits her third-grade teacher’s son. “I held him two days[after he was born], and he was so small,” Moenning said. “And now he’s walking up the stairs by himself.”
Moening says she likes seeing kids grow up because many people don’t remember what it was like when they were younger.

A person Moenning cares a lot about is her sister, Sarah Meonning. The sisters don’t usually fight but when they do it’s usually about sharing the bathroom. “I love being her sister, she constantly is making me laugh, and I just love her!” Sarah writes. Together, they like going shopping and going on coffee dates. Moenning also has a brother named Luke. “He’s really smart and hardworking, and he plays soccer. It’s really cool to watch him play when I go to his soccer games. He is also really loving…and he really cares about me.” Moenning says.

Leah with Luke (left), Sarah (right), and Lisa Meonning.

Moenning also likes to hang out with her friends. They love taking bike rides to the depot to get ice cream or water. They also like going to Wickham Elementary to play on the playground.
She and her best friend, Alina Davis ‘22, enjoy playing card games together, but most of all love having each other’s company. “I would describe her as a fighter and an inspiration,” Davis wrote. “I know no one else as amazing as her.”

Alina explains that she has helped her through so many things whether it’s something small, like boy problems or bigger things like loss and not feeling good about herself. “The thing that makes her different from everyone else is her drive and stretch,” Davis wrote. “She is the strongest person I know. She’s been through so much and still manages to keep everyone around her insanely happy. She is the brightest light in a dark room.”

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