Teen waits for second gift of life

Donate Life Month: 19-year old Kyle is among more than 3,000 people waiting for an organ in Michigan

For Amy and Pat Petrlich, it all feels too familiar.

Seventeen years later they are at the same hospital, with the same fears and hopes, waiting for the same news – that a heart may be available to save their daughter’s life.

Last time, Kyle was just a toddler. Today, she’s 19.

“Getting a heart transplant when she was two years old gave her the best chance of living a normal life and that’s exactly what we’ve experienced,” her mom Amy says. “It’s been incredible watching her grow up, graduate high school, go to college and plan her future. We have a lot to be grateful for.

“Going through this now again so many years later, it brings us right back to when she was a baby. Last time, she had no clue what was going on. This time she’s very aware of what needs to happen for her to leave.”

The Grand Rapids teen has been at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital for more than 100 days. After having a cardiac arrest at home in the middle of the night the day after Christmas, Kyle was revived by CPR and transported to Mott from a Grand Rapids hospital.

It’s a moment her family knew would come eventually – the day Kyle would need a new heart.

As a small child, Kyle developed dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that causes the heart to struggle pumping blood to the rest of the body. At age two, Kyle had her first heart transplant at the Congenital Heart Center at Mott.

“She’s lived a really normal life. You wouldn’t even know she had a transplant,” Pat says. “We knew her heart wouldn’t last forever, but it was just something we didn’t think about.”

Kyle’s transplanted heart grew with her from toddler to teenager. But a couple of years ago, doctors noticed her blood vessels were showing signs of transplant coronary artery disease, which is typical over time after a heart transplant. She was placed on a waiting list for a second heart transplant

Sitting in a room decorated with pictures and well wishes from family and friends, Kyle says she spends days visiting with other patients and visitors. She will remain at Mott where she’s hooked up to IV medication until a new heart arrives.

“I try not to think about it too much,” she says. “I’ve just been hanging out with all the little kids on the floor and making new friends. Because someone donated so long ago, I had almost 17 years with this heart. It’s a big gift.”

Kyle is among more than 3,000 people in Michigan currently waiting for an organ, with a national waiting list of close to 125,000 people, according to Gift of Life Michigan.

“We encourage more people to consider becoming donors,” Mott pediatric cardiologist Dr. Kurt Schumacher says. “Heart transplant recipients can live for many years without any limitations. For Kyle, another organ donation means she can continue to live her life the way she was planning to.”

National Donate Life Month is recognized in April to help encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those who have saved lives through organ donation. To sign up as an organ donor through U-M, visit www.wolverinesforlife.org, and click on “Gift of Life.”


mott blog - logo thumbUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.