Houston hospital performs life-saving heart transplant, toddler thrives

April is "Donate Life" month. A local family is celebrating that, as their toddler is about to turn two years old, thanks to a generous life-saving donor. 

Tucker is a little go-getter, who had a challenging start to life. He was as healthy as could be, until he turned two months old. 

"All of a sudden, started throwing up like crazy and we took them back and forth to the ER about three times, and every time they would say it was acid reflux," states his mother, Falyn.

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His loving mom was concerned about his breathing patterns. Falyn trusted her gut instincts and got yet another opinion, this time at Texas Children's Hospital. "They said, "Oh no, he's in heart failure. I just remember that everything moves so quick, but slow at the same time that night. Within 15 minutes of being at the hospital, he was intubated," states Falyn.

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Tucker was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. His heart couldn’t pump blood through his body, so the only way Tucker could survive was to receive a heart transplant. His parents spent hours with the transplant team, to decide if that was the right decision for them. Dr. Jeff Dreyer is the Medical Director of the program. 

"It's a life-changing decision for the child of course, and for the entire family, to consent to something like that, we want them to make as informed consent as possible," states Dr. Dreyer. "The way I saw it was: it wasn't me that was going to be poked and prodded at for the rest of my life. It was him and I knew that if I let him go again, that he was going to get there was no question of where he would be, but then I prayed for God to give me a sign that night," explains Falyn.

Falyn says she already felt positive signs along the way to fight for Tucker's life. His nurses' names were Grace and Faith. His Cardiologist was Dr. Hope. Then when searching for the new nurse on duty, another sign. 

"The lady said, Miracle is supposed to be watching you. And I said, I'm sorry ma'am. What did you say? And she said, your nurses name is Miracle, and I was like, Okay, God, I was like, I get it, so that's whenever we signed the papers and we knew that he was going to be fine," states a smiling Falyn.


Tucker got a Berlin heart pump, to do all the work for his heart until he could get a new one. 

"Because of the small size of our patients, it is a pump that is designed to work external to the body, but there are cannulas that are placed to take blood from the heart, and then it goes through this external pump and then it's pumped back into the body into the aorta," says Dr. Dreyer. 

This helped keep Tucker alive for well over half a year at TCH, until the perfect match in March 2023. Pure relief and happiness for Tucker's family, while they paused to mourn for the other family and loss of their loved one.

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The heart arrived at the hospital at 1 o'clock. 

"The heart was in and beating at 1:23, I was amazed. Everybody was amazed. So, we had this little saying, 123 for 1:23. It's like God was saying, '123, go Tuckie," exclaims Falyn. 

Did he ever! Tucker healed quickly, now tolerating his medicines well, and his family cherishes every extra day they get with him. He has even been the highlight of an American Heart Association event. 

"He's running. He's happy. He's laughing. He's smiling. It's just amazing," says Falyn.

 For more info: https://www.texaschildrens.org/departments/transplant-center

You can head to https://donatelifetexas.org for more information or to register to become a donor.