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Newborn receives heart transplant in Wisconsin

Posted at 12:21 AM, Dec 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-09 00:21:51-05

MILWAUKEE, WI (WITI/CNN) - A woman in Wisconsin calls it a miracle. Her family found a heart donor for her newborn.

Baby Hazel received a transplant when she was just a month-and-a-half old. 

Three-month-old Hazel is making her mark on doctors. The 10-pound baby is hitting her marks gaining weight and passing her checkup.

She’s got a little help from someone she does not know. "You wouldn't know if you didn't see the scar on her chest, that she wasn't just a totally normal little baby,” said Dr. Steven Kindel of the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Kindel at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin first met Hazel when she didn't have an inches-long scar. She was 5 days old when flown into Milwaukee from a small town near Wisconsin Rapids. Her heart was on the cusp of failure.

"Her heart was probably the size of a racquetball and it was like a racquetball with a golf ball inside it,” Kindel said. "Rather than trying a surgery first, we just listed her for a transplant."

"When she got put on the list I was very antsy,” said mother Amber Harrison. Amber and her husband David rushed to Children's Hospital and met the team of doctors.

“In Hazel's case, we really didn't have a lot of other options. There wasn't much of a plan B if things got worse,” Kindel said. 

Hazel lived her first month and a half of life in the hospital. Surgery was just too risky. Doctors and Hazel`s family waited for that phone call. "Amber, we have a heart and Dr. Kindel accepted it,” Hazel’s mother recalled. 

It was a phone call the mother of two won't forget. “It's been rough. It's been happy. Every emotion goes through you thinking about the donor family,” she said.

Another child had died and that child's heart took the place of Hazel's broken heart. "It's such a gift. It's an absolute miracle,” Hazel’s mother said. The new heart went in when Hazel turned about 6 weeks old. 

'It is the worst day in somebody's life, someone has lost a child. And yet they had the power of their own spirit to say, 'we're going to try to save some other people's lives,’” Kindel said. 

Hazel’s mark is a reminder that two hearts can become one. Doctors say that infants like Hazel have a 90 percent success rate for heart transplants.

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