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7-month-old St. Augustine girl gets artificial heart transplant, still waiting for her permanent heart

A St. Augustine couple has traveled back and forth to Gainesville, as their daughter gets treatment for a heart condition, and the bills are stacking up.

You'd never know from the smile on Phoebe Friebel's face that she was set to have her second open-heart surgery Wednesday at just seven-months-old.

According to her parents, she was born with a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. It caused the left side of her heart to not fully develop, This defect causes her entire heart to rely on the right side to keep her alive.

“It was heartbreaking," her mother, Jenee Friebel said. "I don’t think we were expecting that. The first thing you think about is you’re pregnant you’re going to have a baby. You don’t expect anything to be wrong. You expect this healthy baby to come out and do all of these fun things. You don’t expect your first full seven months to be in the hospital." 

The Shands Children's Hospital in Gainesville is where they've been for the past seven months. On Wednesday, Phoebe got an artificial heart during a seven to eight-hour surgery. 

"She has been so strong through all of this," her dad, Karl Friebel said. "Probably stronger than me. I've had tons of breakdowns and I just look at her and she’s smiling so I can’t feel too bad."

That strength earned her the nickname Feisty Friebel. That name along with boxing gloves are featured on T-shirts Phoebe's family and friends wear on days like surgery day.

“Ever since she was small, she has a little attitude on her and all of the doctors and nurses would say, 'she’s a little feisty one,'" Karl said. "That name kind of stuck with her, so we got these shirts made and designed them and we wanted to make sure she was given the name Feisty Friebel,” Karl said. 

Phoebe made it through the surgery Wednesday and is doing well, but now she waits again. This time, for a heart transplant. She'll have to stay at Shands until one becomes available. Phoebe is at the top of the list.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for travel and hospital costs. 

Jamie Cannon Russell Baby Phoebes' Heart Fund (HLHS) To my friends and family. God put this on my heart to try and help my sweet family. Please take a moment

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