Baby McKinnley

Watch a miracle baby’s first weeks of life through the lens of UW Health photographer John Maniaci

Miracles happen every day at American Family Children’s Hospital.

This sound-slideshow, photographed and produced by UW Health photographer John Maniaci, provides a raw, unfiltered window into one of these miracle stories: Baby McKinnley Murray.

Born in February 2015 with an incredibly complex heart defect known as Transposition of the Great Arteries, McKinnley would not survive without undergoing a complex, risky surgery to restore her aorta and pulmonary artery connections back to normal. Moreover, McKinnley’s situation was further complicated by her prematurity – she was born about 8 weeks early – and weight of less than 3 pounds at birth.

She needed to grow

“We wanted McKinnley to grow before surgery so her lungs would be ready for such an invasive operation,” said Jamie Limjoco, MD, medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “Fortunately, she did well in the NICU, where we cared for her for two months before the surgery.”

On April 14, 2015 – her original due date – McKinnley’s parents, Jenny and Jeff, said a very tearful goodbye as McKinnley was taken to the operating room.

“That was the hardest day of our lives,” Jenny said. “We knew she was in great hands, but we didn’t know at that moment if we’d see her alive again.”

McKinnley’s fate rested in the hands of pediatric heart surgeon Petros Anagnostopoulos, MD and his team. Fortunately, McKinnley did very well and came through the 8-hour surgery ready to start healing and growing.

Her care team, which included physicians and staff from the NICU, PICU and Pediatric Heart Program, gave everything it had to get McKinnley on the road to recovery. Moreover, McKinnley may not have even survived at birth without the expert care of UW Health Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists and the Meriter Birthing Center in Madison. 

Maniaci said he hopes McKinnley’s story provides both inspiration and reassurance to other families undergoing a similar experience.

“There is one photo you see of McKinnley being held by her 104-year-old great-grandfather, Martin,” Maniaci said. “That shot alone made this entire project worthwhile.”

For McKinnley’s mom and dad, Maniaci’s presence was a great source of comfort during an emotional rollercoaster ride.

“John laughed with us and cried with us,” Jenny said. “He did such an amazing job and has now become a great friend. We will always treasure his photographs and his incredible support.”

[The three voices heard in the slideshow are those of Jenny Murray, Jeff Murray and Jamie Limjoco, MD.]

13 comments

  • This is such a beautiful piece. Thanks to the staff and the family for allowing us all to witness McKinnley’s journey. Blessings to them all!

  • What an amazing story of hope! I have had the privilege of working with John Maniaci photographing very emotionally challenging and inspirational stories. The professionalism, care and compassion he offers is evident in his amazing photographs. We are truly blessed to have John at UW Health.

  • As a mother of a NICU preemie, watching this story brought back a flood of emotions for me. Thank you for sharing and Thank You to UW Health doctors as my baby is now a happy and healthy 17 yr old!

  • What a wonderful story and the pictures made it so heartwarming.

  • Beautiful story. It had me in tears, esp watching you say goodbye before surgery.
    My oldest was born just under 4 lbs and the NICU became our family.
    God Bless your family!

  • Thanks So much for sharing your story! What a wonderful ending!!

  • I had a baby boy born 2 pound but unfortunately he didn’t make it. What a little fighter you have! Praying baby McKinnley continue to grow stronger and healthier every day!
    Thanks for sharing her story!

  • Very heartwarming story of faith and hope. Kudos to all the dedicated doctors , nurses and Health care staff. Real life heroes saved another life. May God bless you all always and continue guiding you with the wonderful work that you do for these babies and their families. Beautiful phototography by Mr. John Maniaci.

  • So glad I watched this when I did. So glad to be a part of the UW Health Family. So glad this team will be taking care of my sweet great nephew Joseph Feng Yu, hopefully next week, as you rebuild this 4 year- olds heart.

  • This is the most beautiful story. The pictures taken are beautiful. Captured every moment of this beautiful little baby life. This is truly a blessing from God. Kudos to all the dedicated doctors, nurses, and staff at the AFCH. My son was born with a deformity where he’s missing his left foot and fingers on his left hand. Before it became AFCH it was the old children’s hospital at the UW. He had surgery and I remember being that parent so scared not knowing what his life would be. Now 21yrs later my son uses his left hand and wears a prosthetic on his left foot. May god continue to bless this little baby and her family.

  • Amazing story and equally breath taking photos to capture your difficult journey. It’s wonderful to see McKinnely thriving despite many obstacles. Best wishes to your family today and always. Kudos to all the members of McKinnely’s team at UWHealth.

  • This is an amazing story that restores hope, miracles really do exist! She’s so adorable and I applaud the parents for being so strong to carry through your tough situation. Thank you for sharing this intimate story. The photo of Great Grandpa is really heart warming! Great photos John!! Thank you UW.

  • AFCH is amazing. Our little boy had open heart surgery there at 3 months and he is doing fabulous today at 1 year. Very caring, loving, and extremely skilled team. It was so hard to see him go to surgery and there were many tears but we knew he was in good hands. This story brought back many memories and I wish the family continued luck in their journey.