Baby Gets New Heart, Fulfills Mom's Only Christmas Wish

By Mark Carlson, Reporter

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By Eric Stidman

IOWA CITY, Iowa - An Eastern Iowa Mother and her 10 month old daughter will celebrate their first Christmas together thanks to a successful heart transplant operation at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

“I just can’t explain how thankful we are,” said Danielle McCarty, 19, of Keokuk.

In February McCarty gave birth to her first child, Gabby, three months before her due date. Gabby suffered from cardiomyopathy and needed a heart transplant to survive.

“She only weighed two pounds,” McCarty said. “And so we had to wait until she was twice as big to do the surgery.”

Doctors initially told McCarty that her daughter wouldn’t likely survive the first week. To their surprise she doubled in size in two month, allowing doctors to place her on a waiting list for a new heart.

In August McCarty received the news she was waiting for, that a donor had been found. The same month doctors successfully transplanted a new heart into the six month old.

“I kept hoping and dreaming that Gabby would make it home for her first Christmas,” McCarty told family members of organ donors at a reception in Iowa City Thursday.

To the surprise of doctors, Gabby has been home with her mother since September.

“My dream of spending the holiday’s with my daughter came true,” McCarty said.

“Organ donation saves lives,” said Iowa Donor Network spokesman, Tony Hakes. “Gabby’s wouldn’t be with us if it weren’t for that donor.”

Doctor Erik Edens, Medical Director of Pediatric Heart Transplants at UIHC, said Gabby was one of the sickest children he’d ever seen survive the Pediatric Heart Transplant program.

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