MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- In southeast Shelby County, one painting with its vibrant colors and deep textures could be called art from the heart. The artist behind this picture is nine-year-old Ava Fouche and this is how she sees the world now that her heart is healthy.
"Well, my favorite one is this one because it looks like a rose to me. I am thinking about the colors that I use and then the other side I just go on with it, and my creativity just goes with me," Ava Fouche said.
As you can probably tell Ava is not shy, especially when she's talking about the kind of art she likes to create and what she wants to be when she grows up.
"When I grow up I want to be a chef, and I like painting and drawing," Ava said.
When you watch the way Ava's life has unfolded to where it is today, it's pretty amazing, especially with the obstacles she's faced. You see, soon after Ava was born, her parents, Allison and Robert, noticed she had severe breathing problems.
"She was breathing like she was running a race. She was sweating while she was breathing," Allison said.
"She was only three or four days old, and I'm like something isn't quite right," Robert said.
Things were not right. Ava would have to be taken to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. A series of tests determined that she had a heart defect.
"She has a hole in the heart, and she also had kidney problems. She had kidney reflux, " Robert said.
Doctors said she would need to have surgery.
"I was out of my mind. I was like what did I do to make her this way," Allison said.
Ava was small and frail and before there could be surgery, she would need a feeding tube to help her gain weight.
"Most babies are feeding and kind of chunky before they start walking, and she never did. She looked like something was wrong," Robert said.
Her surgery was scheduled, but doctors discovered Ava had more than just a hole in her heart.
"She also had her mitral valve fused together so the blood couldn't circulate through her heart. It was washing back down," Allison said.
The Fouches prayed that their daughter's surgery would go well and they say it did. In fact, just a few days later she started looking healthier.
"Two or three days later she looked like a totally different child. Before and after surgery," Robert said.
Today Ava is doing fine. She enjoys hanging out with her parents, her little sister, Elise and her big brother Christian. He's a photographer, and he said this is the perfect picture he'd hope to capture of Ava.
"Words can't describe how I felt when she was in the hospital because it was so heartbreaking to see the pain I know she was going through, and looking at her now even those she get on my nerves, I still love her," Christian said.
Speaking of love, the Fouche's said Ava received a lot of it and special care at Le Bonheur, a place where they said miracles do happen.
"God has gifted those people in order to perform those surgeries and care for the patients and some of the volunteers who were there to come around and bring things," Allison said.
Like the colors of Ava 's paintings, her future is bright because she now has a strong, healthy heart and this brave young artist who's been through so much has a heartfelt expression of thanks to share with Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.
"Thank you for helping me survive," Ava said.