A child’s first birthday is normally celebrated with personalized cakes, colorful balloons, and towering gifts. But this little fighter celebrated hers with a new heart. On her first birthday, Rebecca, a baby diagnosed with a congenital disorder, received the gift of life.
Rebecca was just 4 months old when her mom, Christy Brown, noticed that she was not gaining weight. Christy Brown was alarmed and felt something was not right. She immediately consulted various pediatricians. However, only when she brought Rebecca to a gastrointestinal specialist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta that she discovered what was really going on.
“He [the gastro doctor] asked, ‘Does she always breathe like that?'” Christy shared with Good Morning America. Rebecca was immediately referred to a heart specialist after Christy answered yes.
“The left side of her heart was double the normal size,”Christy recalled. “It was pushing against her rib cage.”
Rebecca was diagnosed with ALCAPA, a rare congenital disorder that prevents the left coronary artery from attaching to the heart properly. This is usually characterized by symptoms such as rapid breathing, poor feeding, and sweating. If left untreated, this condition can lead to heart failure.
“It looks like a 7-year-old that has had a massive heart attack. There was so much damage to the left side of her heart,” Christy shared the details of Rebecca’s congenital disorder with Inside Edition. “It turned me upside down. It turned us all upside down.” the devastated mom added.
The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta became Brown and Rebecca’s second home. The walls of the intensive care unit witnessed how they fought for Rebecca’s dear life. Rebecca had one open surgery in hope for correcting her congenital disorder. Unfortunately, it did not help her heart condition. She also received a temporary artificial heart pump while waiting for a transplant.
“It’s mentally exhausting,” Christy confessed. The dedicated mother also shared how Rebecca almost faced death when she suffered from a brain hemorrhage.
Fortunately, Rebecca is a fighter despite her young age. And she is surrounded with people whose hearts are always with her. The strong-willed baby recovered from the brain bleed, and her family focused once more on the heart transplant she badly needed.
“A few of my relatives told me they had dreams where Rebecca got a heart for her birthday,”Christy shared. “I thought we’d be celebrating her first birthday in the hospital.”
The dreams of Rebecca’s relatives turned into a dream come true. A few weeks before Rebecca turn 1, her doctor informed her family that they can finally get a heart transplant.
“The surgeon came in and nudged me awake and said, ‘I think we have a heart for her.’” Christy recalled the day they received the good news. “And I sat up and looked around, like, I’m dreaming this. It can’t be real.”
Some people wait for a heart transplant for months to years. And for people suffering from a congenital disease, the waiting period could mean life and death. Fortunately for baby Rebecca, her heart transplant came just in time for her first birthday!
“Of course you don’t wish for anything bad to happen to another person’s child,” Christy clarified, “But we are so grateful another family chose to have their child live on through Rebecca.” She added.
The now 1-year-old baby Rebecca celebrated her first birthday with a new and healthy heart. Her loving and supportive family marked her new gift of life with some cakes and a commemorative photoshoot.
“We are in the process now of kinda playing catch-up with her development and milestones. On top of her healing from surgery.” Christy said, sharing Rebecca’s current condition. “She’s doing great. She sleeps through the night, which is very nice.” Christy happily added.
Watch the video below to learn more about Christy and Rebecca’s inspiring story.