Young Dancer, Survivor of Heart Surgery, Meets Her Idol

Flanked by her parents Maria and Phil Schupler, 14-year-old Gianna Schupler enjoys a reunion with the cardiologist who saved her life, Dr. David Meyer (left) and her dance idol, Val Chmerkovskiy.

NEW HYDE PARK, NY –What do you give a young dancer who survived a life-threatening heart condition, awoke from surgery and immediately asked, “When can I dance again?”

How about a surprise meeting with world-famous dance champion Val Chmerkovskiy?

Gianna Schupler underwent a grueling, open-heart surgery last year at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. Following a three-month recuperation period, Gianna tap-danced her way to a top prize in the Starbound National Dance Competition.

Gianna, who had always been very passionate about her dancing, began fainting during her athletic tap routines. At first, her worried parents and her doctor chalked it up to exhaustion and dehydration. So, she kept on dancing. When the fainting episodes continued, her parents, Maria and Phil, were determined to find out what was causing these attacks.

At a recent event at Dance With Me Studio in Glen Head, NY, Gianna joined her parents and David Meyer, MD, a pediatric heart surgeon at Cohen, to discuss her remarkable journey. Gianna was told that she would be performing her award-winning tap routine in front of the cameras to prove that her heart defect was completely under control.

Prior to her routine, Dr. Meyer explained that Gianna’s fainting episodes were brought on by a malfunction in her left coronary artery. “This could have potentially proved fatal, so it turns out that it was her dancing that ultimately saved her life by allowing us to discover, and repair, the problem.”

Then, it was Gianna’s turn to speak. After thanking Dr. Meyer and Cohen Children’s Medical Center for saving her life, Gianna said, “All I wanted to know is when I could get back to dancing…that’s my whole life.”

After completing her routine, Gianna got the surprise of her young life when the director of the studio announced she would be meeting another champion — and Val Chmerkovskiy, co-owner of the studio and the reigning champion of “Dancing With The Stars,” entered the room.

After embracing the clearly overwhelmed Gianna, Val suggested that they dance together. Following a few tap and salsa steps, Val applauded Gianna for her courage.

“Gianna’s story is very inspiring…she never gave up her dream. Now, I’m really dancing with the stars,” he said.

About the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York
Opened in 1983, the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York is home to about 675 pediatricians, including 200 full-time physicians, and a total workforce of more than 1,200, including more than 500 nurses. For the eighth consecutive year in 2014, CCMC was ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's 2014-15 “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals” survey.

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