Recovering from surgery, especially an operation such as open-heart surgery, is not only a physical process, it can also be a mental process.
During a follow-up visit, 5-year-old Mical Olaiz mentioned to her nurse how she would love for her favorite doll to have a matching scar. The comment was cute, but who knew if anyone would take the little girl seriously.
Mical Olaiz was born with a birth defect that affected her heart.
Lara Husary, Mical’s mother, told PEOPLE she learned about her daughter’s condition during an ultrasound.
“We went in for an ultrasound because we were trying to figure out if it was a boy or girl,” she recalled. “I remember so much looking forward to that day. Then they saw that she had this on the ultrasound and they immediately sent us to a specialist.”
At just three days old Mical had her first surgery.
Children born with HLHS typically undergo three surgical procedures before they are 4 years old. Mical received her first when she was only three days old. The second surgery took place when she was three and a half months old and her most recent surgery was in 2017.
“Last year she had her last surgery and she can’t remember much,” Husary told ABC11. “And that’s awesome because she can live a normal life. She can do anything she wants. She doesn’t have any limitations in her activities or her hobbies. Like, she just lives her life! Which is what we all wanted.”
Although Mical doesn’t remember her surgeries, she has a physical reminder.
In 2018, during a follow-up visit, the 5-year-old made a comment to her nurse, Anne Schmelzer, who has cared for her since birth, about how she’d like for her doll Mia to have the same scar on her chest.
Schmelzer contacted Dr. Andrew Lodge, a pediatric heart surgeon at Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center, and he agreed to give Mical’s American Girl doll a similar scar.
The medical staff performed “surgery” on Mical’s doll.
Instead of drawing an identical scar or putting a few stitches on the doll’s chest, Lodge, along with Mical’s care team performed a 15-minute open-heart “surgery” on Mia, and recorded it to show Mical.
Lodge explained through Duke Health that he often finds himself dealing with patients, even after their surgery, and this was just another example.
This includes taking care of the patient and the whole family, and sometimes the social aspects that go along with doing major surgery on children. … Doing surgery on the doll is something small we could do to help one of our patients feel a little more comfortable. Perhaps now she has someone at her side she believes she can relate to and who underwent something similar to what she went through herself.
After her doll’s surgery, Mical went to the hospital to pick her up and remove her bandage.
When the time came for the 5-year-old to pick up Mia from the hospital, she was thrilled. Her care team even let her pull Mia’s bandage off her stitches.
“I’m very happy she has a scar just like me,” she told PEOPLE. “It makes Mia great and me too!”
Lodge hopes the doll will comfort her if she ever becomes insecure about her scar.
— DeJuan Hoggard (@DeJuanABC11) June 8, 2018
Upon picking up Mia, Mical received specific instructions to care for her doll.
“I order kisses and hugs. Blow bubbles. And a lot of playtime,” Mical told ABC11.