Agency Story: Children’s of Alabama

UWCA partner Children’s of Alabama put a smile on Livie Wheeler’s face! (Photo courtesy of Children’s of Alabama)

Hope Comes from the Heart

Every day, United Way of Central Alabama and our network of more than 70 partner agencies and programs impact individuals throughout our community. This story comes from Children’s of Alabama, one of the nation’s leading hospitals for children, treating young patients from every county in Alabama, 41 other states and 8 foreign countries.

Melena Wheeler had a normal pregnancy and birth with her daughter, Livie, so it came as a shock when Livie suddenly began having health problems. “Out of nowhere, she started grunting and walking differently. I thought she maybe had a hint of autism,” Melena said. “But that was far from what it really was.”

Melena took Livie to see her pediatrician, who sent the then 21-month-old for a chest X-ray. The next morning, Melena received the call she dreaded – something was definitely wrong with Livie and they needed to get to Children’s of Alabama. “We went immediately,” Melena said. “At Children’s, we learned it was her heart.”

After a few days in the hospital, Livie’s doctors prescribed her medications that allowed her to go home and even on vacation with her family. But while on vacation, she fell seriously ill. “She was lethargic, her lips turned blue and her breathing was very erratic,” Melena said. “We knew that while there were closer hospitals, we had to get her back to Children’s.”

Livie was again admitted to Children’s and diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy with a leaking left ventricle. It was immediately clear to doctors that Livie would need a heart transplant. Children’s got her to the top of the transplant list soon after. “It was definitely a shock to hear that it was bad enough to need a transplant,” Melena said. “Her doctors and care team really had to jump through a lot of hoops to get her where she needed to be on that list, which was at the top. I very much appreciated that Children’s fought so hard for her.”

After waiting less than two months, Livie received a new heart. Livie underwent surgery the same day her family was notified of a donor match. “The surgery went incredibly well, and Livie’s body has taken the transplant so well. We couldn’t have asked for a better response,” Melena said.

After less than a month in the hospital, Livie was discharged home in time to celebrate her second birthday. “It’s truly a miracle that Livie was able to get a heart as quickly as she did, and I know that’s because of the incredible doctors and nurses at Children’s,” Melena said. “I am so grateful for how hard they fought for her. They never gave up and that means so much to us. They have become so much more to us than her doctors. They are our friends.”

This post originally appeared on Children’s of Alabama’s website.