Heart transplant gave new life for girl, family
Despite daughter's death ten years later, mother is grateful for memories
Updated: Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Twenty-one years ago, Kerri Misiewicz, a Ball State University faculty member for 37 years, took her four-month-old daughter, Megan, to the doctor’s office because of a lingering cough. Upon further inspection, Megan was immediately sent to Ball Memorial Hospital where doctors noticed one of her lungs was not making any breathing noises and her chest was sinking instead of rising with each breath.
The doctor then told Misiewicz something she wasn’t prepared for – her young daughter had a large unidentified mass in her chest. She was transported to Riley Hospital where doctors determined that the mass was actually her heart. Megan’s heart had expanded four times larger than it should have, causing her left lung to collapse because of the lack of space. Though doctors were unsure of the actual cause, they assumed a virus had entered Megan’s heart and attacked the muscle, causing it to expand – to the horror of Misiewicz, the doctors immediately began discussing a heart transplant.
“I’m hearing transplant and thinking, ‘well, this is the worst news ever.’ I could remember watching the Today Show and having parents on the Today Show pleading for donors for their children - [because] organ donation generally wasn’t that big of a deal then,” Misiewicz said.
Six difficult months passed. Megan was constantly sick and was fed through a feeding tube that her mother would insert. At ten months old, Misiewicz took Megan to Riley Hospital because of congestive heart failure. At this point, Megan was totally dependent on a ventilator. This prompted doctors to ask for permission to place her on a transplant list for a new heart.
“Now, I’m thinking this is the best news ever because I see what’s happened in the past six months and I know Megan’s never leaving this hospital alive and this is her only chance,” Misiewicz said.
Three days later, a miracle happened – an out of state donor was found for Megan. Doctors quickly went to work, transplanting the heart from a five-month-old child in place of Megan’s defective heart, making her the first infant to receive a heart transplant in Indiana.
“They put this little heart in there, they turned off the heart bypass machine, and this little heart just started kicking on its own,” Misiewicz said. “They didn’t have to give it any help from a machine or by the doctors it just started working and it just worked like a charm ever since.”
Little Megan immediately transformed from a sick, tiny baby with a bluish skin tone to a pink, warm, healthy baby with regular breathing patterns and chest movements.
“After that, Megan just flew,” Misiewicz said with a smile, “I mean, at the time of her surgery, she was still in newborn diapers – she weighed 12 pounds – she’s ten-months-old, and she just took off.”
Megan led a seemingly ordinary life. She attended public school and was able to run and play with other children who never knew of her rough start in life. However, things changed when Megan was in fourth grade.
One early Saturday morning in January, she went to her mother to lay in bed with her because she wasn’t feeling well. As the two cuddled together, Megan passed away due to heart disease. She was 10 years old.
Although her time with her daughter was short, Misiewicz is thankful for the time she had with Megan and for the generosity of the parents of the young child who donated their baby’s heart.
“What that new heart did for her was give her a childhood she wasn’t going to have any other way,” Misiewicz said. “As her parent, and for her family, that was important because otherwise all my memories of Megan would have been as a sick child in a hospital bed. I wouldn’t know anything about her personality. I wouldn’t know her likes and dislikes. I wouldn’t know the little boy in her class she had a crush on.”
Misiewicz and her husband, Joe, who is known to telecommunications students as Dr. Joe, have become active with IOPO, the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization. The Misiewiczs speak out on becoming an organ donor through IOPO and Mrs. Misciewicz often speaks in Health Science 160 classes on this subject.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated April as National Donate Life Month, 30 days in which we celebrate the generosity of people who made the decision to save others. Although the number of donors is growing, many people have chosen not to become donors – for every 77 people who are saved each day, 17 to 19 die because of a lack of donors.
“One donor – tissue and organ donor – can help improve the lives of 77 people. Currently, there are over 100,000 people in the United States on the transplant waiting list. So, if everybody at Ball State were a donor, times 77, think how quickly that number would be reduced,” Misciewicz said. “The need is so great and the result is so astounding when a healthy organ is restored. We just need people to not be afraid to donate.”
Some Ball State students understand the importance of organ donations. Kate Roesch, a freshman advertising major from Noblesville, Ind., is one such student. From the moment Roesch received her driver’s license, she knew she wanted to be a donor and immediately had the heart sticker placed on her license.
“It’s always something that’s been important to me,” Roesch said, “There are so few organs that are actually donated, so the more donors that there are, the more people whose lives get to be saved.”
However, Roesch has not stopped there. Because she has a rare blood type that makes her a universal donor, Roesch often gives blood to help others in need while she is still living.
“To me, there’s hardly an excuse not to go every couple of months to lose a pint of blood or two,” Roesch said. “I think everyone’s kind of had an impact in their life where they know someone who’s either had their life saved by blood or organ donation or they’ve lost somebody who could’ve been saved by blood or organ donation. You’re saving lives on a very personal level.”