Amazing Grace: Catholic Teen Battles Heart Disease and Inspires Others

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Currents News Staff

When it’s nice outside, you’ll often find Grace Mallgraf in the backyard with her dad practicing her swing. But golf isn’t her only game. You can also catch her with her twin sister Abby hitting the volleyball. 

And when she wants to give her wrists a rest, she gives her fingers a workout on the keyboard and plays her heart out. All of it is music to her mother’s ears.

“It’s a miracle!” Lisa says.

You see, Grace’s physical heart almost kept her from doing all of the things she loves. 

“I’ve had four open heart surgeries,” Grace says.

That’s four open-heart surgeries before she was even three years old!  She was born with HLHS, or Hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart.

Grace doesn’t remember any of it, but for mom Lisa, her own heart skipped a beat when she found out her newborn would need surgery.

“I mean it was terrifying and you just didn’t know what was gonna happen next,” Lisa said. “There was a time when we weren’t sure what she would be like as a 12-year-old.”

But Lisa had faith in the surgeon at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

“He did some explanation on paper and then he just looked us in the eye and said ‘I’ll fix your baby’s heart,’” she said.

It was actually her faith in God that was put to the test.

“There was a time though where I questioned the faith and why,” Lisa said, “but I’ve learned through the years, you can’t do that, you have to kinda put your faith in God.”

The Mallgraf family keeps the faith as parishioners at St. Anthony of Padua in East Northport.

“Church was a big piece of it,” she said. “I find that it’s actually like my therapy almost. Sometimes when it’s hard, I just go and like focus and be thankful for what I have and I hate to ask for more, but sometimes ask for a little bit more.”

The seventh-grade honors student at Trinity Regional Catholic School isn’t out of the woods yet. Grace is regularly seen by heart specialists and there’s always the possibility she may need a heart transplant in the future. But that doesn’t get her down. 

“I feel fine,” Grace said. “Just like a normal kid.”

But if you ask anyone who knows her, she’s not normal, she’s amazing: Amazing Grace – which also happens to be the name of her team at the annual congenital heart walk. Grace works hard to raise money because her heart is in the right place.

“So that we can help other kids and people like me who have heart defects,” she said.

Grace is a heart warrior and to her mom, she’s a superhero who drives her family to give back to others facing the same challenges.

“We’ve been very involved in that and try to raise as much as we can because the research has gotten us where we are,” Lisa said. “So if it can get us further, can get another kid to this point, it’s all worth it.”

The Long Island Congenital Heart Walk is virtual this year. If you’d like to donate to Team Amazing Grace,  just head to and search for the team “Amazing Grace.”

If you’d like to join in on the fun, you can participate in the New York City walk. It will be held on Sept. 26 at The Bronx Zoo.