Gabrielle Wanek and Michelle Waletzko Speaking at Feel the Beat 2018!

Aug 22, 2018 | Stephen Rowley | @sjrowley


Gabrielle Wanek
Gabrielle is a twenty-three-year-old with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She was born in Genolier, Switzerland and has had multiple surgeries including the Norwood procedure, directional Glenn procedure, the Fontan procedure, and three catheter procedures. She grew up in a small town in western Wisconsin with her parents and her older brother.

Gabrielle lives in North Carolina where she is currently attending High Point University. She will graduate in December of 2018 with a degree in communication and a focus in video game design. She worked as a resident assistant in her dorm on campus this past year.


In her free time, she loves to write, ski, and play video games. This past summer, Gabrielle interned at Mayo Clinic’s Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for HLHS and wrote a series of blog posts about living with HLHS.

She believes that it's important to understand what those who have a congenital heart disease have gone through. Our past proves the trials that we have been able to overcome. HLHS doesn’t define who she is but it most certainly has shaped some of it, however, it has never stopped her from doing the things that she has tried to do. Understanding the past allows you to prepare for the future.


Michelle Waletzko
Michelle resides in Kasson MN with husband Andy, daughter Teagan (5) and heart warrior Isaac, almost 3 years old.  Isaac had his first heart surgery before he was born, at 21 weeks gestation at Boston Children’s Hospital.  Doctors there performed a fetal aortic balloon angioplasty, attempting to prevent Isaac from developing HLHS; however, he was still born with HLHS and near intact atrial septum at 35 weeks.

Michelle found it difficult to find local support dealing with Isaac’s HLHS diagnosis. This drove her to use social media to reach out and lend support to other heart moms and families.  Today Michelle has made connections with heart families locally and nationwide. Michelle makes time to actively be a part of the heart community, sharing her family’s story and helping other families get through the many unique circumstances only heart moms have been through.

Michelle, along with an abundance of family and friends, call themselves Isaac Williams’s Warriors. Together they have raised funds to support CHD and HLHS research. Through Lasting Imprint, they have provided hospital bags for families.  For the past 2 years, they have participated in toy drives for the cardiac ICU “toy closet” at St. Mary’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic and is available for heart families.  Recently, Isaac William’s Warriors have been able to provide 2 hospital wagons for the cardiac ICU as well.

Looking forward to seeing you on September 8!

The Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a collaborative network of specialists bonded by the vision of finding solutions for individuals affected by congenital heart defects including HLHS. The specialized team is addressing the various aspects of these defects by using research and clinical strategies ranging from basic science to diagnostic imaging to regenerative therapies. Email the program at to learn more.

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the HLHS blog.

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