FOREST CITY—Addi Byers is enjoying swimming this summer, playing with her dog, and spending time with friends.
These activities would not have been possible, if not for the new heart that she received at Levine Children’s Hospital (a part of Atrium Health) in Charlotte. Addie underwent heart transplant surgery March 15. She is grateful, and eager to get on with the rest of her life.
Addi turn 12 years old on July 8. She and her 6-year-old brother Grady were born with genetic heart defects. Her 7-year-old sister Rylee did not inherit the condition.
Grady is taking an effective medication, and his heart is functioning “very well,” according to their mother Melanie Earley.
“The doctors are very comfortable with where he is at. He is doing great...He’s a very active, normal little wild boy,” she said.
The heart transplant was not Addi’s first heart surgery. In 2017, she had a hole in her heart repaired. But slowly, eventually, her heart function continued to decline.
Addi remained active with her family, until she became sick and on Feb. 2 was admitted to the hospital in Charlotte.
After less than a week, doctors told Melanie the medicines were not working.
“Her heart just wasn’t responding like it should,” Melanie said. “I was asking many questions, about what we could do.”
After serious conversations with the medical team, Melanie said the reality set in.
“When it hit me that a heart transplant was the only option....That was a hard day,” she said.
Melanie, who teaches kindergarten at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, has a strong support system of family and friends.
“I knew we had really good doctors, and a very good medical team,” she said. “That is an amazing hospital. But, it was a scary feeling, facing a heart transplant for my daughter.”
Addi said, “I was very scared. I didn’t know what to think, or what to expect. I did not know why the medicine was not working.”
Addi spent about six hours in surgery. She, and her mother, leaned on their faith.
“We knew that God was with us,” Addi said.
In order to receive a human heart transplant, another person has to die first. That reality can bring a range of emotions.
Addi and Melanie say they are glad that a person made the decision to be an organ donor.
“Once we knew she would need a heart transplant, we prayed that whoever the donor was, that the person would have faith, and know Jesus,” Melanie said. “And we asked our supporters who were praying for us, to also pray for the donor’s family and friends.”
Addi said, “The donor, saved my life. I am glad that I have been blessed with a new heart. This is a miracle. I am glad that I can see God through this experience.”
For at least the next year, Addi will travel to visit the heart doctors each month in Charlotte.
And she takes special medicine for transplant patients. This week, Addi has been given the go-head from her medical team, to resume regular social interactions.
She looks forward to attending Camp Luck for a week in August, which is designed specifically for kids with heart transplants.
“I am very proud of her,” Melanie said of Addi. “And I am forever grateful to the donor, who gave my daughter the opportunity to keep living. I want that family to know how much it means to us.”
Through the hospital, Melanie will be able to reach out to the donor family. That family will, if they so choose, be able to respond. Melanie only knows that the donor was not from North Carolina.
Addi’s future would not be possible without organ donation programs. She wants everyone to consider donation.
“I have been listed as an organ donor on my driver’s license for as long as I could drive,” Melanie said. “I hope more people will consider it. Organ donation saves lives.”