Four-month-old Paisley Mae Arnold looked perfect from the outside: chubby cheeks, giant eyes and a wisp of dark blond hair. She would occasionally wheeze, but doctors told her parents not to worry about that.
Then, five days ago, doctors at Loma Linda University Medical Center Children's Hospital in Loma Linda, Calif., told the baby's parents, Rick and Charity Arnold, that Paisley Mae wasn't perfect.
She'd need a heart transplant to survive.
"She's just a very special little girl, and we're both looking forward to seeing her grow up, God willing," Rick Arnold, a paramedic at Fire Station 302 in Hesperia, Calif., told KABC, the ABC-owned station in Los Angeles.
Paisley Mae was born without a left coronary artery, which caused her to have an enlarged heart, according to KABC. There is no cure, and she will eventually need a transplant. The night of the Feb. 21 diagnosis, she had a major bandycardic event, meaning her heart rate dangerously slowed prompting doctors to do chest compressions and put her on a machine called an ECMO, which bypasses the heart to oxygenate the blood.
The close-knit group of firefighters at Station 302 has helped Arnold with shifts so that he can spend time with his daughter in the hospital, firefighters told KABC. They also began raising money by selling T-shirts and holding a charity 5K run. An online fundraiser, A Change of Heart for Paisley Mae, has already raised $7,833, according to its page on gofundme.com - $3,833 more than the original goal.
"Having this burden on their shoulders is difficult enough without having to worry about everyday bills and medical bills, so our hope is to just lessen that for them," firefighter Blake Berg told KABC.
On Monday, doctors performed a six-hour surgery to give Paisley a Berlin Heart, which works outside the body to pump blood and maintain the other organs, hoping to buy Paisley some time until she can get a transplant. However, her lungs became inflamed and caused a hemorrhage after surgery, so doctors put her back on the ECMO machine, according to the Arnold's Facebook page.
"Your continued love and support is a huge reason we are making it through this," the Arnolds wrote on their Facebook page, which now has nearly 3,000 likes. "Thank you."