Support our mission

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A critically ill infant born at Yokosuka Naval Base and airlifted to the United States is awaiting surgery in Salt Lake City.

Brianna was born April 4 with congenital heart disease; she needs surgery to switch her heart’s aortic and pulmonary valves, said her father, Maj. Court Wilkins, an optometrist from Misawa Air Base.

Wilkins spoke with Stars and Stripes by phone Tuesday from a relative’s home in Utah.

Brianna, the eighth child of Wilkins and wife Vicki, is breathing on her own, eating normally and nursing, Wilkins said.

A small hole in her heart also will have to be mended, but now it’s keeping her blood oxygenated, Wilkins said.

“The surgery itself has a pretty good outcome,” Wilkins said. “We’re very hopeful.”

Brianna would not be able to survive long-term without the procedure, her father said.

Doctors will conduct a cardiac test on Brianna next week to see if surgery can wait until she’s bigger, Wilkins said.

The baby was transported to Kanagawa Children’s Hospital in Yokohama within hours after she was born, said Lt. Cmdr. Suzanne Haney, a pediatrician at Yokosuka’s hospital. Haney said several military agencies, working with the Japanese hospital, coordinated the infant’s April 8 airlift to the United States, which began from a Japanese ball field.

“Everybody has just done such a superb job,” Wilkins said. “We could not have asked for anything better in our situation.”

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up