At just 5 years old, Mical Olaiz of Durham, North Carolina, has already undergone three major surgeries — and she has the scars to show for it.
Olaiz was born with Hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital defect in which the left side of the infant’s heart does not develop properly. The little girl has endured three open-heart surgeries since her birth, leaving her with a large, vertical scar down the center of her chest.
Now, thanks to her surgeon and the medical staff at Duke Children’s Hospital, the little girl’s beloved American Girl doll Mia, has matching scars.
“I’m very happy she has a scar just like me,”Olaiz tells PEOPLE. “It makes Mia great and me too!”
Dr. Andrew Lodge performed the 15-minute “open heart surgery” on the doll last week, and Olaiz got to take the toy home on her 5th birthday.
“Doing surgery on the doll is something small we could do to help one of our patients feel a little more comfortable,” Dr. Lodge tells PEOPLE of the touching gesture.
Olaiz’s mom, 35-year-old Lara Husary, learned of the condition when she was just 20 weeks pregnant with her daughter.
“We went in for an ultrasound because we were trying to figure out if it was a boy or girl. I remember so much looking forward to that day,” she recalls. “Then they saw that she had this on the ultrasound and they immediately sent us to a specialist.”
As is standard for kids with the condition, Olaiz had her first surgery when she was just 3 days old; her second when she was just 3 and a half months, and her third surgery last year.
“She is doing great now. We’re so grateful,” her mom says, adding that Olaiz seems proud of her scars — especially now that her doll’s chest looks like hers.
“She knows she’s been through a different experience than other kids and she almost brags about how brave she’s been. She knows that without that surgery she would not be here.”
Olaiz was given strict instructions for caring for Mia – lots of hugs and kisses and plenty of playtime.
Olaiz is the second doll Dr. Lodge has “operated” on. Last year, nurses made a Play-Doh heart that he placed inside a doll for a transplant patient.
“As babies or toddlers, they may not notice their scar as much, but as they become older children, they may start to focus more on their body image and may feel that their scar makes them different from other kids,” Lodge says.
“Maybe having her doll go through an operation can be something that will help her feel more comfortable with her scar and with everything she has been through.”
Husary says she has been so touched by the surgeon’s kindness and the impact he’s had on Olaiz. The soon-to-be kindergartner already knows what she wants to be when she grows up — a doctor.