Home Heart Transplant 'She received a really good, strong heart': Downers Grove girl's heart transplant done

'She received a really good, strong heart': Downers Grove girl's heart transplant done

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Eleven-year-old heart patient Sofia Sanchez's sudden heart transplant surgery today is complete and a success, her mom said this evening.

"Sofia is out of surgery! Surgery went well. She received a really good, strong heart," Julie Bizup Price posted on the Go Fund Me page for Sofia, saying the update was from Natalie Sanchez. "They will keep her asleep for the remainder of the night. Thank you for your prayers. God is good."

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Sofia was granted one of her birthday wishes last week when her favorite musical artist, Drake, stopped by her hospital room. Then, a second wish came true Sunday for the Downers Grove girl: a new heart.

Sofia, whose birthday was Aug. 18, spent the last eight weeks awaiting a heart transplant at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. In a video posted on her cousin's Facebook page Sunday, Sofia said she remained hopeful that she would be getting a new heart soon.

Moments later, her family gave her the good news that her wish had been granted.

The surgery started about 6 Monday morning and took nine hours, according to a statement from the hospital, and she was back in her hospital room by 6 p.m.

Pediatric cardiovascular surgeon Carl Backer performed the transplant.

"The surgery went extremely well," Backer said in a statement. "As with all heart transplants, the next 24-48 hours will be critical, but the heart seemed happy in its new home."

Sofia was "in good spirits" and "happy" going into the early morning surgery, Natalie Sanchez said in a phone interview.

"She's excited to get this over with and move forward with her life," her mother said. "She just wants to get back to the things she loves."

An update on the GoFundMe page says Sofia's family hopes she will be able to return home by Thanksgiving, after a couple of weeks of recovery and six to eight weeks at the Ronald McDonald House.

Her mother said she and her family are relieved the surgery went well but are now preparing to support Sofia during her recovery.

"The surgery went well; we're hoping for good recovery," Natalie said. "It's not like you get a new heart and you're cured. It's still going well, but, you know, it's a roller coaster."

Sofia was diagnosed this summer with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that often leads to heart failure. She underwent open heart surgery several weeks ago, allowing doctors to connect a mechanical pump, called a VAD, to support her heart and blood flow.

A day before that surgery, Sofia performed the Kiki dance challenge down a hospital hallway in hopes of meeting Drake, whose music has inspired her during her hospital stay. In a video filmed after the procedure, she told the Canadian rapper she loved his music and asked him to visit her at Lurie for her birthday.

Sofia was all smiles when Drake stopped by last Monday while in town for his tour. In an Instagram post, Drake said they talked about Justin Bieber and basketball.

Natalie Sanchez said her family has received "overwhelming" support since her daughter's diagnosis. Neighbors collected about $4,800 at a lemonade stand fundraiser last month, and the GoFundMe page has raised more than $46,000.

"I'm grateful," Natalie said. "Definitely for all the love and support from my community, complete strangers, family and friends. The GoFundMe helped tremendously not having to worry about work."

Natalie offered thanks and prayers to the family of the heart donor, saying "it's just amazing how somebody could save somebody else's life" through organ donation.

"I'm a donor. My kids are donors," Natalie said. "If something happened (to one of them) I know it would help me get through. I'm so grateful."

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