By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Today we celebrate mothers, but Jennifer Campbell looks forward to another joyous day. Hannah Mae, her beautiful blue-eyed baby, turns 1 on Saturday.
A first birthday is a happy time for all parents. For this Everett family, one candle on a cake is miraculous.
Last Sept. 24, at 4 months old, Hannah Mae had a heart transplant.
The seven-hour surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital came after months of hospitalization, dozens of blood transfusions and several meetings when doctors warned Jonathan and Jennifer Campbell that their daughter might not survive the night.
“Multiple times they said she’s not going to make it, but she did,” Jennifer Campbell said Friday as she cradled the sleepy girl in her arms.
Insisting that Hannah Mae doesn’t need presents, the Campbells have planned an event at their church to help provide lifesaving gifts to others. What the family is calling a “birthday bash-blood drive” will be held 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Everett.
The Puget Sound Blood Center will be there for blood donors. And staff from LifeCenter Northwest will be available with information about organ donation.
“The need for donated organs and tissues continues to be great,” said Kevin O’Connor, president and CEO of LifeCenter Northwest. That agency is one of the country’s 58 federally designated nonprofit organ procurement organizations. LifeCenter Northwest works with nearly 200 hospitals, serving people in Washington, northern Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
O’Connor said 120,000 people nationwide are now awaiting an organ transplant, 2,000 of them in the Northwest. “Every day, 18 people die for lack of an organ,” he said.
Beyond heart, liver or kidney transplants, there is a need for corneas, skin, bone and vessels. O’Connor encourages people to register as organ donors, and to talk with loved ones about it.
For the Campbells, it wasn’t until after the transplant that they learned a previous diagnosis wasn’t what threatened Hannah Mae’s life. Doctors examining the heart that was removed found a very rare condition, diffuse rhabdomyomatosis, a benign tumor in the heart’s muscle wall.
Jennifer Campbell said doctors have gone to conferences to talk about Hannah Mae’s case, and have told them their baby is the only known survivor of the condition.
In some ways, Hannah Mae is a typical 1-year-old. “She is great at sitting up,” her mother said. She is learning to walk holding her parents’ hands. She scoots on her bottom, but hasn’t learned to crawl or roll over.
There are still challenges. Just last week, she had surgery to put a feeding tube into her stomach. That’s because she has trouble swallowing, a result of having had a breathing tube down her throat for a long time. She will learn to eat normally, but can’t do it yet.
All her life, she will need anti-rejection drugs. That strong medicine has caused heavier than normal hair growth, her parents said.
In all, the Campbells feel blessed. Hannah Mae is home and thriving with her brothers, 9-year-old Cavan, and Bryce, 7.
Often in their prayers is the 13-month-boy whose heart Hannah Mae received. “We have prayed a lot for Hannah’s little angel,” Jennifer Campbell said. Last December, the couple got an anonymous letter, through a foundation, from the boy’s mother.
It said that the baby died in an accident. The mother asked for brief updates from the two families whose children now have her son’s organs. His kidneys were donated to another child.
“My son was a free spirit,” the letter said. “He loved to dance with his two big sisters.”
The Campbells will be forever thankful for the choice that family made.
The Everett mom can’t help but remember last Mother’s Day. Hannah Mae was due last May 8. But by Mother’s Day 2012, five days past the due date, she had not arrived. It was supposed to be her baptismal day, but instead a very pregnant mom and her husband invited extended family for a cookout.
Later at Seattle Children’s, their baby was baptized because they feared she would die.
Next Sunday, with grandparents in town for a first birthday party, there will be an affirmation of Hannah Mae’s baptism at Our Savior’s Lutheran.
“She’s a miracle baby, that’s for sure,” Jennifer Campbell said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blood drive Friday
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church will host a blood drive, with the Puget Sound Blood Center, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday as a celebration of Hannah Mae Campbell’s first birthday. There will be food, children’s activities and LifeCenter Northwest representatives to talk about organ donation. The church is at 215 W. Mukilteo Blvd., Everett.
To reserve a blood donation time: www.psbc.org/programs/drive.asp?url=3853
More about organ donation: www.lcnw.org