PROVO — Saturday was a big day for Hailie Gittins. The senior and swimmer at Mountain Crest High School was in the in the High School State Championships at BYU. She's been swimming since she was 10. It's a demanding sport that comes with potential risks, especially for her.
Gittins has tetrology of Fallot, a congenital heart defect that changes the normal flow of blood through the heart. Those who have it suffer from lower oxygen levels which, without surgery, can be life threatening.
"It's hard as a parent knowing that there's something wrong with your child and you can't do anything to fix it," said mother Stacie Gittins.
"She's just never given up and it's been hard for her, but she's an amazing girl."
Hailie had open heart surgery when she was 9 months old, and again in 2011 when her heart function decreased.
"Because she loved to swim and was so active, they didn't want the quality of her life to stop," her mother said.
Still, a little heart can go a long way. Two weeks later, she was back in the water.
Ronald Day, her cardiologist, said he'd rather see her doing a low-impact sport. But nevertheless, he's impressed.
"To me, it's kind of inspiring that she is able to do a physically demanding sport like swimming, despite her heart problem," he said.
Gittins didn't place Saturday. She had a goal to beat her own personal record but unfortunately, she didn't do that. Still, this was a big accomplishment. Just swimming in the meet was enough for her.
"I just want to tell any kid out there that feels that they have health problems: Try before it happens," she said.
Gittins plans to continue swimming and coach club teams.