MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG)— A baby born with half a heart will celebrate her first birthday at a Memphis hospital where she got a second chance at life thanks to surgery.
After months of waiting, 11-month-old Ja’Mia McFarland received her new heart just two weeks shy of her first birthday. In true superstar fashion, she awoke from having a heart transplant with a microphone in hand.
Her mother, Laverne Webb, who has two other young children, said she learned Ja’Mia would be born with half a heart while she was still in the womb.
“I was scared when I first found out because I thought she wasn’t going to make it when I had her,” said her mother.
After nearly six months on the transplant list, Ja’Mia received the gift of a lifetime from a donor just weeks before her first birthday.
“It might still be in the hospital, but this baby gets to celebrate her first birthday, and there are unfortunately lots of children who didn’t get to do that,” said Jenny Strelsin, a nurse practitioner with the Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant department at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital.
She said about 1 in 4,000 babies are born with a single ventricle instead of two like Ja’Mia — the condition is often referred to as having half a heart.
“When you have a baby that’s born with congenital heart disease, you’re now expecting one ventricle to do the work of two pumping chambers, and so we often see that fail,” said Strelsin.
With Ja’Mia already undergoing several surgeries, she said the transplant came right on time.
“I think she would have progressed into fulminant heart failure and felt terrible and ultimately she would have died on the waitlist,” said Strelsin.
With many milestones and a lifetime of medical visits ahead, her mother is praising the hospital for its care.
“I really appreciate the doctors and nurses for taking care of her and they have her so spoiled here,” said Webb.
Ja’Mia’s first birthday party will be at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital on Saturday.
As medical expenses add up, Ja’Mia’s family, who is from Blytheville, Arkansas, has started a GoFundMe to help with recovery. If you’d like to donate, please click here.