In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

August 16, 2016

Lola Montilla Goes To Washington, and Represents

By Hoyt Finnamore

LolaAndFirstLady805The last time we talked with Lola Montilla, she'd just written her first book and helped get a new law passed in Puerto Rico that requires all newborns to be screened for heart conditions. This all happened after the now 15-year-old Lola had corrective surgery at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus for an Ebstein's anomaly heart defect.

And Lola isn’t slowing down. She’s been making the rounds on the public speaking circuit, where she shares her message of "loving yourself" despite scars or perceived flaws. (She’s not afraid to show off the scar in the middle of her chest from her heart surgery.) Somewhere along the way, Make-A-Wish Foundation heard about Lola and decided it was time someone did something for her. The first time they called, Lola turned them away. "I said no because I thought they only granted wishes to kids with terminal illnesses," she tells us. "I also didn't want to take away a wish from a child who was in worse shape than I was."

A couple of months later, Make-A-Wish tried again, explaining to Lola that they also grant wishes to kids whose lives have been threatened by disease and illness. "After they cleared up my doubts, I decided to say yes because I thought I could maybe use my wish to help others," Lola says. 

Lola tells us it didn't take long for her to decide what her one wish would be. "I decided I wanted to meet Michelle Obama because she's such an advocate for what she believes in, and she's always been one of my inspirations," Lola says.

Wanting to meet the First Lady of the United States is one thing. Actually making it happen, Lola tells us, is quite another. "The hardest part was the scheduling because she has such a busy calendar," Lola says. Earlier this summer, however, Lola and her family flew to Washington, D.C. When they arrived at the White House, Lola tells us she was awestruck. "To realize you're not in a museum, but in someone's house was surreal," she says.

Things got even more surreal when, part-way through her family's private tour of the White House, "All of a sudden, the staffer who was with us started telling us to 'Go, go, go!'" Lola says. "We were then taken to the Diplomatic Reception Room, and after about 30 seconds, Mrs. Obama comes in and says, 'Hi, Lola!' That's when it started to feel real."

In addition to "taking selfies and playing with her dogs," Lola tells us she also found time during her hour-long conversation with Mrs. Obama to talk about the things that are important to her. "I'd need an entire blog to tell you everything we talked about," she says. "But we did talk about congenital heart defects and my own public speaking campaign against body shaming. I also told her about my time at Mayo and how my care team there is so amazing. She was flabbergasted by all of that."

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Tags: Community, Ebstein's anomaly, Lola Montilla, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Patient Stories

What a wonderful picture of 2 amazing women who embody courage and commitment o others. They are are beautiful human beings on the surface and deep into their soul.

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