OGDEN -- Four-year-old Khia Romo chases her 3-year-old sister around their living room and then down the hallway.
A moment later she is asking her parents, Michael and Maria Romo, if she can have some chips for a snack.
A few minutes later she is back in the living room, jumping around showing off her dress-up shoes.
The little girl continues to play like most girls her age, as her parents talk about how they are trying to prepare for their daughter's open-heart surgery, scheduled for June 26 at Primary Children's Medical Center. She will be in the hospital for at least two weeks before she will be allowed to go home. This will be her third open-heart surgery since she was born Oct. 8, 2008.
The couple learned one month before Khia was born that she had a "double outlet right ventricle with reposition of the great arteries, or a complicated congenital heart defect," Michael said.
This surgery will help Khia, but at some point when she is in her late teens or early 20s, Khia may have to have a heart transplant, Michael said.
"For the first month after she gets home, there will be no swimming or playing in the water or bathtubs," Michael said. "She loves playing in the water."
"It's hard seeing her with tubes in her and not being able to hold her," Maria said about the other two surgeries.
They have two other daughters, Kyria, 3 and Koda, 1. Both girls are free of any heart problems.
The surgery is just one of the many challenges the family has faced since Michael and Maria were married five years ago. Michael was laid off from Dillard's in January, and the family lost their medical insurance. He currently is working part-time at Deseret Industries until he can find another job.
Maria cannot work because Khia needs to be watched 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case she has a problem that would require immediate medical attention.
"We have to watch her, because if she falls down and hits her chest she could have problems. Or if she is running and starts breathing too hard, we have to make her stop and slow her breathing down," Michael said.
Medicaid has picked up Khia, so the family does not have to worry about any current medical bills for her, but they are still paying on previous medical bills. They also worry how they will pay for transportation costs to go to the hospital on a daily basis to be with their daughter during her two-week stay.
A year ago, they became the legal guardians of Maria's sister, Helen Bird, who is now 18. She recently graduated from Ogden High School and plans to go to Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College to study nursing.
Their extended families live in other states, so they rely on each other, Helen or their friends and church members to help them.
"Helen is a big help, and our daughters absolutely love their Auntie Helen," Michael said.
At a recent visit to Primary Children's, Helen went with them and it turned out to be a good thing. Khia had to have a chest X-ray and she got upset. It was Helen who calmed her down so they could get a good X-ray of her chest, Michael said.
The Romos have learned to take each day one moment at a time, they said.
"There's always that constant worry that she'll go to bed or she'll fall down and collapse," Michael said. "Khia needs this surgery in order for her to live."
Want to help?: An account to help the Romos with any additional expenses not covered by Medicaid has been set up at Golden West Credit Union. Donations can be made to the Khia Romo account.