Heart donor mother recipient meet, six months waiting for a new heart.
Hana Yago lived at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford for six months waiting for a new heart.
The little girl was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and severe heart failure at six months old. By the time she was 20 months old, she relied on a ventricular device, known as the Berlin Heart, to keep her blood flowing and extend the life of her failing heart; but she needed a transplant to save her life.
The call finally came on May 28, 2016 — Hana’s 192nd day in the hospital. Shortly before her second birthday, the toddler received her new heart.
“I knew when I saw the phone ringing what it was going to be. I just knew it. They had a heart for her,” her mom Kathleen said in an emotional video produced by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health. “There’s so much gratitude, relief and excitement — and hope — and yet [it’s also] so bittersweet because you know somewhere, some anonymous family is just grieving so deeply.”
Leo Bibler was the same age as Hana. He loved wrestling, playing with trucks and dancing to the music of ZZ Top. But in late May 2016, he slumped over with a seizure.
“They told us that Leo wasn’t going to make it,” his mom Kelly said. “It was the worst day of our lives.”
Kelly and Dave, Leo’s father, learned their little boy could save eight lives through the gift of organ donation.
“Part of him was still going to be living on, and it was going to give somebody else the opportunity to do the things that Leo was never going to get to do,” Kelly said. “There was no thought. Both of us were just immediately like, ‘Yes.’ Why would we take that from another family?”
From the moment Kelly learned that another child would be getting Leo’s heart, she wanted to meet the recipient and their family. She and Dave had a daughter after Leo’s death; and even though Aubrey would never meet her brother, they wanted the person who received his heart to be more than just a name to her.
Last month, the Biblers drove 1,200 miles from their home in Colorado to Palo Alto to meet Hana and her family for the first time. Hana, who’s now almost five years old, recently celebrated her third “heartversary.” She gave Kelly a bouquet of flowers and a hug, and she held up a big poster covered with stars and the words, “Thank You.”
Dave and Kelly took turns holding a stethoscope to Hana’s chest and listening to Leo’s heart beating inside her.
“That is so cool,” Dave said. “You have a good heart in there.”
Tears slid down Kelly’s cheeks. The last time she had listened to Leo’s heart was in the hospital right before he died.
Kathleen told her and Dave how much their son’s gift meant. “The deepest dark moment of your life — you chose to spare somebody else from that,” Hana’s mother said. “To give a kid you never knew another chance at life: it’s kind of overwhelming and beautiful, and we are so grateful.”
And even though Hana never met the little boy who saved her life, she said Leo is special to her.
“Leo is my angel and I love him so much,” Hana said. “He is my hero … and we’re both best friends.”
Learn more about Hana’s journey and read Leo’s story in his mother’s words on the blog Hana’s Heart.
Photo of Kelly, Kathleen and Hana courtesy of Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health