Dominique’s heart journey began soon after she was born in 2014 when she came into the world six weeks premature.

After vigorous testing due to her premature birth, doctors discovered Dominique had ventricular septal defect (a hole in the wall that separates the two lower chambers of the heart), mitral valve stenosis (narrowing of the heart’s mitral valve) and aortic valve stenosis (narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve).

Dominique spent the first three months of her life between Cairns Hospital and the Queensland Children’s Hospital.

As time went on, her father James realised Dominique’s condition would be a big learning curve for them both.

“I never knew such complicated things could happen to little children until it happened to Dominique but I have learnt so much about her condition as she has grown.

“When Dominique was a toddler she struggled to gain weight and grow taller. As time went on I realised she was also having difficulties with fine motor skills and delayed speech.

Dominique was diagnosed with autism when she was 2 years old and has regular support from speech therapists and psychologists to assist with her learning difficulties.

She is now six years old and lives in Duaringa, in Central Queensland, with her dad James where she attends her local primary school.

They drive an hour and a half to Rockhampton every three to six months for a check up with Children’s Health Queensland’s Cardiac Outreach Service. At this point in her life, it is unknown whether Dominique will need heart surgery but thanks to the outreach service, she can be regularly monitored and tested without the need to travel to Brisbane.

Although Dominique lives with complicated health conditions, she is a happy child that doesn’t let her illness slow her down. James said she loves reading, walking with her dad and playing educational games on her tablet.

“A lot of other kids and families are apprehensive about playing with Dominique outside of school because they are scared something may happen to her heart while under their care. It does make it difficult as I want her to grow up feeling like she’s just a regular kid,” James said.

“I feel very blessed though to be Dominique’s father and to be on this journey with her to look after her as she grows.

“Her condition makes me determined to be a stronger person and I have so much love for her. She is always my first priority in life.

“I get so much joy out of being the father to a special little girl like Dominique and I’m so happy we are able to access the health care she needs.”