By: Tyana Cheeks-Huntley/American Heart Association

Gretta, a 16-year-old from Yadkinville, is living with half a heart, but that doesn’t slow her down. Gretta’s mother, Valerie King, found out at 20 weeks into her pregnancy that her child was going to have a heart defect. Gretta was born with Tricuspid Atresia, a congenital heart defect where a child is born without the tricuspid valve and the right ventricle.

Tricuspid Atresia Baby born with half heart

“A baby’s heart is about the size of a quarter and the doctors were only working on half of that with Gretta,” shared Valerie. Gretta went through her first open heart surgery at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Brenner Children’s Hospital just a few days after she was born. In total, she went through five open heart surgeries by the age of three and has had six heart catheterizations.

“Whenever there’s bad weather, that’s when people think about carrying the umbrella or whenever there is a tornado warning, that’s when they think, let’s go to the basement. But for us, we always live in that second step. We’ve always got the umbrella. We’re always on watch. We are just waiting on the warning to come,” shared Valerie. As a parent, Valerie is always prepared and has her fears, but she tries to never let them affect Gretta’s childhood and happiness.

Girl Born with Tricuspid Atresia in Girl Scouts

Gretta stays active with volleyball, dance, and Girl Scouts. She is currently in her 11th year of Girl Scouts and is working on earning her Gold Award. She dances four times a week including her favorite dance, which is tap dancing. Now she also teaches younger students to dance. “The children she teaches love her and are always so excited to see her,” Valerie shared.

Throughout her life, Gretta has had regular cardiology visits. Now, she visits her cardiologist annually. During her most recent cardiology visit, everything looked good and her doctor shared that she was pleased with the results. Soon Gretta will have a treadmill stress test and another heart catheterization to make sure that everything is still going well.

Gretta is currently attending Yadkin Early College and plans to pursue a career in physical therapy. “I want to go into the medical field because medical staff have always been a big part of my life and I know what a difference they can make,” said Gretta. Gretta has already started to make a difference by helping others. “Since Gretta was young, I watched as she learned how to advocate for others, other than herself. At such a young age, she knew how to take herself out of the picture. Through her experiences, she has grown and matured in ways that have made her truly special,” said Valerie. “She is my beautiful, joyful treasure.”

Gretta continues to share her story and shares a message to other kids fighting congenital heart defects. “I tell other kids like me to always tell your parents when you don’t feel good,” said Gretta. “Your parents can’t help you if they don’t know that something is feeling wrong.”

“Gretta has been participating in local American Heart Association Heart Walks and activities since before she could walk,” shared Valerie. Since she was five years old, Gretta has been actively involved and has gone to three NC lobby days with the American Heart Association, along with participating in a federal lobby day. In 2008, she was recognized as the Queen of Hearts for the local Heart Walk. She walked the stage as part of the Go Red for Women survivor fashion show in Winston-Salem. Gretta has also shared her heart story at local Heart Ball events.

The 2024 Triad Heart Ball will take place on Friday, April 26 at Legacy Stables & Events in Winston-Salem. The event includes a roaring 20s theme in celebration of the American Heart Association’s 100th birthday, a silent auction, live auction, gourmet dinner, and live entertainment. The Triad Heart Ball is sponsored by Live Fierce. Life is Why Sponsor, Novant Health, Signature Sponsor, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, and Platinum Sponsor, Novant Health Rehabilitation Hospital, an affiliate of Encompass Health.

For more information about the Triad Heart Ball or to donate to help fight heart disease and stroke in the Triad, scan the QR code, or visit

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