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The Fight To Save Summer: An Infant’s Heart Transplant

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Twin Cities couple brought their baby to the doctor for what they thought was a cold but just hours later they learned that their daughter needed a new heart.

“I didn’t understand the gravity until we were here at Amplatz Children’s Hospital in the ER and they were expecting us,” Tori Ostlund said. “As soon as he saw the X-ray he said, ‘You guys have to go right away.'”

What the doctor saw in her daughter Summer’s X-ray would confine their daughter to a hospital this past November to face an uncertain future.

A condition called dilated cardiomyopathy caused Summer’s heart to enlarge to twice its size. Tom and Tori Ostlund were told without a new heart Summer wouldn’t survive.

“We weren’t even here an hour and a heart transplant was being talked about,” Tom Ostlund said.

Dr. Jim St. Louis, chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Amplatz Children’s Hospital, says Summer became one of the youngest patients in his career to be placed on the highest priority transplant list for a new heart.

In the meantime, Summer had to be hooked up to a Berlin Heart, a tiny pump on her body meant to maintain blood flow in babies with heart failure.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s passed filled with setbacks and surgeries for Summer. Finally, after 68 days, the call came.

“For a family to think of life in such a time of death there are no words. It’s amazing,” Tori Ostlund said.

Four months after they were rushed in and a month after getting her new heart, Summer went home.

“She smiles like you wouldn’t believe. She has a lot to smile and be thankful about,” Tori Ostlund said.

Summer will be hooked up to a feeding tube for months and be on medications the rest of her life. Still, doctors feel confident about her future.

“Overall she’s been fantastic and the heart’s working great,” St. Louis said.

He said after 10 years, 80 percent of the children who have heart transplants will still be doing fine.

Tori Ostlund is often asked how they’ve done it. The answer is easy.

“I think as mothers we really don’t have a choice. You don’t have a choice but to show up for your child,” she said.

Summer’s was the 800th heart transplant performed in the University of Minnesota medical system. The Ostlund family and their doctors wanted to remind people of the importance of organ donation.

Amplatz says it always has at least five children waiting for a new heart.

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