Pediatric heart surgeons perform Christmas miracles at Lurie Children’s Hospital

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CHICAGO — Several young patients will get a fresh start in 2020 thanks to generous organ donors and a hard-working doctor who performed three heart transplants this week.

The team of pediatric heart surgeons at Lurie Children’s Hospital has been performing miracles on overdrive this week and showing families the true meaning of the season.

One child, 9-year-old Olivia, was born with a congenital heart defect. When she was 2.5 years old, she had her first heart transplant, but her body would later reject it.

“The day is going to come where she can’t keep up with her peers. She can’t do the things that she wants to do and we’ll have to bring her in for a checkup and they’re going to say, ‘You’re going to stay now,’” Lisa Donnelly, Olivia’s mom, said.

But Christmas came early this year and her doctor called her parents and said he had a new heart.

“One of the only times I’ve ever been in shock is when we got that phone call,” Brian Donnelly, Olivia’s dad said.

However, her parents said explaining to the 9-year-old that she needed a 10-hour surgery the day before Santa was supposed to arrive was hard.

But her elves left their shelf and made their way to Lurie’s, and on Christmas morning, she woke up with a new heart.

“There’s been a lot of Christmas miracles this year,” Dr. Carl Backer, professor of surgery, said.

The heart transplant team at Lurie’s has been busy this week completing three transplants in 4 days.

“I tell families all the time everything happens for a reason,” Dr. Philip Thrush, pediatric cardiologist, said.

On Christmas Day, 6-month-old Arya Harris also got a new heart.

It’s been a banner year for the team at lurie’s – 34 transplants total.

“I can’t think of a better Christmas gift to give a family,” Thrush said.

And this year, nobody complained about working during the holidays.

The three children who got new hearts are all doing well. Olivia said the next thing she wants to do is travel to Hawaii.

Her parents said even though they got a miracle, they are well aware that their child got a heart because someone else’s family did not have a very good holiday season. They said they are very thankful for organ donation.

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