Teen Throws First Pitch at Kernels Opening Game After Heart Transplant

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A Cedar Rapids Prairie Student is making big strides as she works to recover from a heart transplant.

17-year-old Hailey Steimel received her heart on Valentine's Day. It's been less than two months since her surgery, and Thursday she showed the community just how far she's come.

On opening day of the Kernels baseball season, people were bundled up.

Blankets and hats were the norm in this crowd, but among the chilly scene there's a heart-warming story.

"Recovery is going really well," said Hailey's Mother Brigitte Steimel.

In a suite, the Steimel crew is showing support for Hailey as the 17-year-old recovers.

"Everyone is like 'oh you look so good' and I'm just like really? It just kind of like weird because, you know, back in September and all that I was like really tired and now, I'm not really tired," Hailey Steimel said.

It's a good thing she had plenty of energy.

"It's one of those once in a lifetime things that, you know, you don't get asked very often," Brigitte Steimel said.

The Kernels asked Hailey to throw the first pitch on opening day.

Standing in front of the crowd, with her picture on the big screen and her family by her side, she gave it a good toss.

"My ball kind of hit the ground and then I think he swooped it up," Hailey Steimel said.

Her twin sister didn't doubt Hailey had it in her.

"I knew she could do it. She is really strong," Hope Steimel said.

Through it all, the ball Hailey pitched came along with quite a message that the girls hope the crowd hears loud and clear.

"You can get through anything in life," Hope Steimel said.

"I hope they heard my message of become a donor because you save people's lives," Hailey Steimel said.

Because surviving a heart transplant is a whole new ball game, one Hailey is thankful for.

Hailey's mom said Hailey practiced to make sure she could throw the ball Thursday. She said the teen still has plenty of physical therapy to go through to continue gaining strength.

Hailey said she's especially looking forward to getting outside more often, once the weather warms up.
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