CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa One month after a lifesaving heart transplant, Hailey Steimel is home with her family.
A congenital heart disease forced the 17-year-old Prairie High School student to spend months in the hospital as she waited for a new heart. That day finally came on Valentine's Day.
Due to her health, Steimel has never been able to speak to us on camera, until now.
As she settles in at home, she goes through the thousands of cards that have been sent to her in recent months from friends, family, and total strangers.
"It's been unreal, it's just a lot of support," Steimel said. "People say like 'you inspire me' so it's like cool. But it's almost kind of weird because it's like wow I didn't now I could impact people like that."
Steimel's mom, Brigitte, says that support from others has helped them all through the toughest of times.
"Everyone always says you guys are so strong and Hailey is so courageous, and I think of all the people that made that happen," said Brigitte Steimel.
Brigitte was with Hailey nearly every day in the hospital. Now, surrounded by balloons and homemade signs, both are happy to be home.
"Coming home after being there so long just really makes you appreciate life and just the simple things," said Brigitte.
Steimel is now looking forward to getting back to school, maybe even going to prom even if only for a short time and one day swimming.
All these things are possible because Steimel received a donated heart, which is why she encourages others to become donors.
"Because you save lives," Steimel said. "When you can't save a loved one, they can save another life and that's the biggest gift of all."
There are currently more than 121,000 people waiting for organ transplants in the United States. A single organ donor can save 8 lives, and a tissue donor can help enhance the lives of more than 50 people. To register, go online to your state's organ donor registration page.