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Tehya's Heart Transplant Story

Feb 10, 2020

Transplanted at Just a Few Days Old, Tehya Thrives in Cheerleading and School

Tehya with Detroit Tigers mascotPregnant with her first child at 27 years old, Traci of Pinckney, Michigan, went in for her first ultrasound at her local hospital. The ultrasound technologist, who had a special interest in pediatric cardiology, noticed that there may be an issue with her daughter Tehya’s heart.

Local cardiologists confirmed that the baby likely had heart related issues but the exact issue could not be determined until after she delivered the baby.

Traci started to explore the family history for herself and Tehya’s dad and found out there was family history of heart issues on both sides.

“I did not know this at the time, but my cousin had heart surgery as a child at Children’s Hospital of Michigan years ago,” says Traci.

Traci carried Tehya full term but while in labor her heart rate kept dropping which led to an emergency C-Section. It was discovered that Tehya had a congenital heart condition known as transposition of the great arteries (TGA). The condition occurs when the two main arteries going out of the heart - the pulmonary artery and the aorta - are switched in position, or transposed.

At less than 5 days old, surgery was performed to correct the transposed great arteries (TGA).

Traci says Tehya was on a bypass machine so surgeons could repair her condition. After three attempts to take her off bypass to allow her own heart to work again, the surgery team discovered that Tehya also had another heart condition called coronary arterial spasm. This occurs when the coronary artery spasms and disrupts blood flow to the heart muscle. This can lead to damage of the heart muscle (heart attack) and/or dangerous, abnormal heart rhythms which can cause sudden death.

“As distressing as this news was, we feel that if she did not have the TGA surgery, the doctors would not have known about the coronary arterial spasm and she could have died from this condition,” says Traci.

Tehya would need a heart transplant to survive due to damage to the heart muscle from the spasm and at 10 days old, she received her life-saving heart transplant.

Tehya in cheerleader uniform“Tehya stayed at Children’s Hospital of Michigan for a few months because the heart that she received came from a 3-month-old boy and Tehya had to grow into her heart,” explains Traci.

Fast forward 12 years and Traci said despite a few complications from medications that has subsided, her precious child is full of life.

“It is a miracle with what she went through you wouldn’t even know that she had a heart transplant. She loves gymnastics, cheerleading and dancing and I feel so blessed with her outcome,” she says.

Jennifer Blake, MD, pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Hospital of Michigan says Tehya is doing very well from her heart transplant.

“She has had complications related to side effects and allergies to a few of the medications, but this has fortunately not affected her transplant directly. Long-term, Tehya may need another heart transplant someday, but Tehya and her mother do an excellent job caring for her transplant and keeping her transplant healthy. The transplant team expects Tehya to have many healthy years ahead of her,” says Dr. Blake.

Throughout the years, Traci and Tehya have gone through so much including losing Tehya’s father when she was just 4 years old, but she is extremely thankful to the staff including the heart team at Children’s Hospital of Michigan who have been with her from day one.

“The nurses, heart transplant coordinators and doctors including Dr. Blake are like my family. Since the heart transplant, we have moved farther away but I would not consider switching hospitals because of the exceptional care and support Tehya and I have received,” says Traci.