Eleanor Westenhofer, happy and healthy after a life-saving heart transplant
As baby Eleanor Westenhofer waited for a heart transplant, her parents Damon and Lindsey took turns spending the night with her at Kosair Children’s Hospital.
It was Lindsey’s night when that important call came. The cardiovascular nurse-practitioner on the phone asked Lindsey if she was sitting down and told her, “We have a heart.”
The transplant was a huge success, and Eleanor is a happy and healthy toddler.
Eleanor was on full life support after her birth on Oct. 12, 2010. Tests had revealed a congenital heart defect. Doctors said a transplant was the only option, and 10 days later, she was added to the national waiting list. Her survival was at stake.
Her parents felt helpless. “If you allow yourself to think too much about what could happen,” Lindsey said, “I knew I would be in a very bad place.”
Eleanor was on the list for exactly two months. Her new heart came from a two-month-old little girl in Pennsylvania. The Westenhofers know few details but have sent a letter of deep gratitude.
“For all we know,” Lindsey said, “that is the only heart that would have been perfect for Eleanor. Because of their generosity and selflessness, we have our beautiful daughter at home with us. We feel it’s a miracle. There are no words to fully describe the gratitude we have. Even through their tragedy and immense loss, they saw they could help other people.”
Eleanor may have some limitations, no contact sports for example, but the family’s lives have been transformed. They see a bright future.
“Now, we have so much to look forward to,” Lindsey said. “Before, our lives were full of stress and anxiety. It’s agonizing. She could have gotten much sicker very fast. We will do everything we can to keep her happy and to make sure she experiences everything she can. Whatever she wants to be, we will help her make her dreams come true.”
The Westenhofers are huge advocates for organ donation.
“We both feel strongly about spreading awareness,” Lindsey said. “I did not know that 1 in 100 babies are born with a heart defect. Everyone should sign up to be an organ donor. Please make your family aware of your wishes, and make sure you sign up for the registry online. You can help so many people.”