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Bianca Gozola has spent most of her life waiting for a day that finally arrived last month.

The 3-year-old Twin Cities girl underwent a heart transplant on Sept. 12, marking the end of a two-and-a-half-year wait for her and her family.

Bianca, who will celebrate her fourth birthday this month, is now recovering from the procedure at Mayo Clinic, where her regular walks, lively playtime, and a newfound appetite all signal the promises of her new heartbeat.

Her parents, Savage residents Nick and Laura Gozola, were brought to tears when their daughter finished an entire popsicle in the early days of her recovery.

“She had never once in her life eaten an entire popsicle,” Laura recalled. “For us, it was momentous. This new heart actually is working.”

For Nick, his daughter’s rare diagnosis marked a new chapter in a familiar story. His older sister, Kristi, was just 13-years-old when she received a heart transplant in 1999. 

Bianca’s one-in-a-million diagnosis of restrictive cardiomyopathy, a condition that causes the heart muscle to become rigid, is not related to Kristi’s congenital heart defects.

“The first time, you thought it would be the only time," Nick told the Savage Pacer newspaper last year. For Nick, lightning struck twice, they say. 

It's been a long journey for the Gozolas, who learned they were expecting another child just two months before Bianca's diagnosis on March 15, 2020. 

The wait for a transplant often meant separation for the family, with Bianca's siblings Devin (2) and Fiona (6) splitting time between Rochester and Savage. 

Bianca Gozola, who turns 4 on Oct. 20, with her parents and siblings in the days before her successful heart transplant at Mayo Clinic on Sept. 12. Bianca was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy in 2020.

Bianca Gozola, who turns 4 on Oct. 20, with her parents and siblings in the days before her successful heart transplant at Mayo Clinic on Sept. 12. Bianca was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy in 2020.

The transplant journey, Laura said, is more of a triathlon than a marathon, with each step its own, difficult marathon. 

Nick remains on long-term unpaid leave from work and Laura, who is working 32 hours a week, will return to her job once Bianca is home. 

While they take each day a step at a time, they are looking forward to Bianca's continued recovery and eventual return home to Savage. 

"Our story doesn't end with the transplant, this is a whole new beginning," Laura said. "Our hope is just to be home by Christmas." 

Support for the Gozola family 

On Sunday, Nov. 6, a fundraiser will be held for Bianca at NorthStar Tavern in Bloomington. From 4-8 p.m., 15% from dine-in or take-out food sales will go to the Gozola family.

For updates and to donate exclusively to Bianca's medical expenses, click here.

To connect or learn more about the Gozola family's current needs, reach out through the Bianca's Beats Facebook page. 

Support they are currently seeking includes professional cleaning services, such as air duct cleaning and carpet steam cleaning, to help prepare for Bianca's return home. 

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