A young infant was finally headed home Wednesday with a brand new heart, following a celebratory press conference at Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami where she has lived for the past three months.
"It makes me very happy," said her mother, Alejandra Mendez.
Eliana Mendez, just 6 months old, has spent half of her life in the hospital, most of the time awaiting a heart-transplant donation.
Eliana was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a rare condition that causes the heart to become enlarged and weaken, eventually leading to heart failure.
UHealth pediatric cardiac surgeon Dr. Eliot Rosenkranz said her old heart was "not going to last forever."
Eliana’s parents initially thought she had the flu.
"That’s when we noticed she was vomiting more and being really tired," her mother said.
But doctors realized the situation was much more serious — Eliana would need a heart transplant. She was airlifted her to Jackson Memorial Hospital where she lived for two months until a donor was found. Her surgery took place on Aug. 21.
Then there was more trouble: the heart wasn’t doing its job.
"It worked but it didn’t work well enough," Rosenkranz said.
For nearly a week Eliana was supported by a machine that kept her alive while her new heart adjusted. Eventually she bounced back. Her parents said they learned a lesson about resilience.
"She’s a great example to us," father Abdiel Mendez said.
Eliana will soon be discharged from the hospital.
"The quality of life after a transplant is very good," Dr. Paolo Rusconi said.
"We see her being a normal child," Alejandra Mendez said.