'Miracle' baby goes home after heart transplant

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Turning five months old later this week, Shayla Senesac and her parents of Champlin, Minnesota are getting used to the comforts of home.

“I feel like we are just living a miracle out,” said Kelly Senesac, Shayla’s mom.

Born with hypoplastic right heart syndrome, her right ventricle never fully formed, which caused a lot of extra work for her tiny heart and lungs. Shayla wasn't allowed to leave the hospital until she got a match for a transplant. That tiny heart with the right size, weight and blood type also had to come from a location where doctors could perform the transplant from the donor to Shayla within four hours. 

Fox 9 first met Shayla and her family in January. Minnesota Vikings fans, they celebrated the “Minneapolis Miracle” at the hospital, but were still hoping for a miracle of their own.

“We really didn’t know when we first met [Fox 9], if we would be the donor family or if we would receive the heart,” said Kelly.

On a Monday night in February, after 92 days of waiting for a new heart, University of Minnesota pediatric cardiologist Dr. Rebecca Ameduri informed the family they had found a match. The roughly 12-hour surgery happened just in time. 

“Shayla was getting pretty sick before her transplant,” said Dr. Ameduri. “We weren’t sure she was going to make it to that call.”

“Her heart birthday is on the 21st, so she gets two birthdays now,” said Chad Senesac, Shayla’s dad.

With Shayla finally home, Kelly and Chad are adjusting to the new parent routine, plus mastering her medicine and feeding through a tube for now. At least once a week Shayla will return to the hospital for lab tests, an echocardiogram and EKG, as the first year is the most critical in making sure the body doesn't reject the heart. 

“You can’t not think about the donor family and the selfless gift that they gave in saying yes to organ donation,” said Kelly. “We just won’t ever be able to thank them enough.”

The only thing Shayla's parents know about the donor is the heart came via a two-hour plane ride and the plane had to be de-iced before that trip. They are writing a letter to that donor family, hoping to meet them someday, but also understand if that might be too difficult.