Cedar Rapids Girl's Transplant Surgery Brings Long Wait to an End
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Hailey Steimel's family said the 17-year-old's surgeon told them her heart transplant went well Friday.
An eastern Iowa teenager’s hope for a new heart was finally answered. And the good donor news came on a very appropriate day for hearts—Valentine’s Day.
Hailey Steimel, 17 has a congenital heart defect and spent months on a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics urgent heart transplant list. Since last fall, friends and family have gotten involved in a campaign called “Hope 4 Hailey’s Heart”—both to raise funds to help the family and to also help Hailey keep her spirits up. Surgery began Friday afternoon and family members said just to make it to the point of finding a compatible donor heart was a real relief.
For a time, last September, things weren’t looking so good. Hailey was actually too sick to undergo a transplant. But her health improved to the point that the waiting could begin.
Hope Steimel, Hailey’s twin sister, said it was an electric moment when the call from the hospital came late Thursday night to the family’s home.
“My dad told me and at first I didn’t know how to react. I thought he was lying. Then I heard Hailey say ‘it came’ and I went upstairs and my mom was talking to somebody and I knew it was here,” Hope said.
Since Hailey officially got back on the transplant list, her school community and local businesses have hosted more than a dozen events to promote Hope 4 Hailey’s Heart. Her entire high school student body sang happy birthday to her on a video and they’ve dedicated football games in her honor.
A handful of classmates rushed to the hospital in Iowa City Thursday night and began a vigil waiting for the surgery to begin.
Hannah Burrows, a Prairie High School junior, said “we got here about nine o’clock. As soon as we got the call everybody just dropped everything and we won’t be leaving until she is out of there.”
Some of her classmates spent Friday morning with Hailey before the scheduled surgery. Hailey was getting her new heart not only on Valentine’s Day but also the official Organ Donor Awareness Day. The irony wasn’t lost on another classmate, Emily Wallace.
“I just started crying I was so happy. We’ve all been thinking Valentine’s day, but it’s also her heart transplant day of all things,” Wallace said.
Classmates stayed with the family in a waiting room while the surgery was underway. Another friend, Ali Stewart, said Hailey herself was probably the most composed of all.
“We’ve all been like freaking out and she’s like ‘oh yeah, I’m just going in to get my heart’ and it’s no big deal. And we’re thinking you are crazy,” Stewart said.
Family members said Hailey’s surgery was expected to take up to ten hours. Her friends said they would wait until it was over.
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