Editor’s Note—This is the story of Janelle, a child who received a heart transplant as a baby at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Janette Allen, who wrote this story, helped care for Janelle when she was in the hospital.
anelle, a vivacious 11-year-old, comes into my clinic, smiling shyly as she walks into the blood-drawing room. She puts her arm out and bravely has her blood collected before I take her temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Janelle is very fortunate because she had a heart transplant.
Her mother, Nelida, was very excited when Janelle was born, but at 3 months of age Janelle stopped eating, became very sleepy, and did not act like her happy self.
After two visits to the emergency room Janelle was admitted into the hospital. Her parents were told she was very sick. Her heart was very large and working too hard, and Janelle needed a heart transplant. Her mom and dad felt helpless. They waited and prayed as Janelle was placed on the list for a heart transplant.
One week later a heart became available for another little baby in the hospital. Just before the surgery was to begin, the doctors decided the heart was not suitable for that baby, and Janelle received her new heart on Thanksgiving morning. Her pale lips and skin turned a healthy pink as she recovered from heart surgery.
Since then, each Thanksgiving Janelle and her family celebrate the birthday of her new heart, and take a moment to remember and thank the donor family for their unselfish gift.
When Janelle was 5 years old, she and her mother decided to donate 9 inches of her beautiful, dark-brown hair to Locks of Love. This organization makes wigs from donated hair for people who have lost their hair from chemotherapy, which is a medicine to treat cancer.
But the following year Janelle found out she had developed cancer herself. She bravely went through five months of chemotherapy treatment. Fortunately she did not lose her hair. A month after finishing her chemotherapy, she donated her hair again.
Now four years later, Janelle will proudly graduate from elementary school. If you ask about her dreams for the future, she will tell you she loves talking and would like to be a talk-show host. Maybe she will even have her own show someday. I know whatever she does, she will do it with pizzazz.
—Janette Whittaker-Allen, R.N., C.C.T.C., pediatric heart transplant outpatient coordinator, Loma Linda University Medical Center.