When Bonnie Witaschek was 20 weeks pregnant, she and her husband Mark excitedly went to the doctor to get a glimpse of their baby. But instead, the couple received some difficult news.
“[Doctors] saw a heart defect and the baby didn’t seem to have a nose bone. I knew in my heart that she had Down syndrome,” Witaschek, 36, tells PEOPLE. “The heart defects, I was ignorant to and I didn’t think they would amount to anything. I didn’t realize she was going to need open-heart surgery. When I found out that was going to happen, that was very scary for me.”
The couple’s daughter, Kitty, was born on Sept. 3, 2017. Witaschek, of New England, says that, along with having Down syndrome, Kitty was born with three heart defects, a stomach defect and Congenital Hyperinsulinism—a genetic disorder that results in low blood sugar.
“When she was coming out, I had this striking fear that she wasn’t going to live outside the womb. I started praying really hard for her to live,” Witaschek recalls. “But the moment she came out, she was strikingly beautiful. She was so strong and her eyes were so alert and she wanted to see everything in the room and I was in amazement of her. At that very moment, I decided she was going to be fine.”
Over the next five weeks, Kitty undrwent three surgeries, two for her heart and one for her stomach illness.
“It was like watching a silent film. I was outside of my body. I can’t imagine that I even breathed during that time, waiting to hear that she made it out,” Witaschek tells PEOPLE.
“Waiting in the waiting room, whenever I saw blue scrubs coming around the corner my heart would stop and I’d clench the arm chair. But she came out of it beautifully and I have a picture of her looking around and blinking at 5 weeks old. She’s so strong. It’s like nothing even happened to her.”
The doting mom of six calls Kitty her “magic girl,” noting that all of the doctors and nurses instantly fell in love with the little baby who boasted a big smile, wide eyes and large, round cheeks. Due to her health issues and infections, Kitty has remained in the hospital for the first six months of her life— but Witaschek has been documenting Kitty’s journey on Instagram. She also shared her story with Love What Matters.
Witaschek says that although Kitty’s health struggles are not over, she and her family have “stayed positive.” But she says it isn’t hard to be optimistic with such a sweet little girl.
“She is bubbly and smiley and she loves attention. She’s never cried much in her life,” Witaschek says.
“She’s just strong, she’s incredible. And she likes to entertain and smile. She likes to hang out with the girls. She overtook my [Instagram] page and she’s brought so many people together in prayer. I can’t stop sharing. I am in awe of her. I will share her every day of my life.”