Teenager gets incredible gift: Life-saving heart transplant


Courtney Doell

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DENVER -- There are more than 120,000 people waiting for an organ donation. And according to organdonor.gov, 22 people will die each day waiting for an organ.

But for a local teenager, the wait is over. Courtney Doell got a new heart last week thanks to an organ donor. Her mother, Shilo, said, “It’s just an answer to our prayers. I literally want to bust at the seams. I am so happy. It’s really priceless, a priceless gift.”

Courtney Doell was just 18 months old when she was first diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.

Her father, Sheldon, said, “For whatever reason, it went right to her heart muscle. And weakened her heart muscle and we really almost lost her then 18 months old, was a miracle, by the grace of God she lived. She recovered rapidly, had normal childhood.”

Courtney grew into a normal, active teenager until the beginning of the school year when she got sick again.

“Doctors told us most kids don’t make it to age 3 or 5. That was really hard to hear, so at age 5 she was on no meds, I thought ‘great we are done, don’t have to worry about this anymore.’ That wasn’t the case. She got a cold it never really went away, turned into pneumonia,” her mom said.

The virus attacked her heart and doctors told her parents the damage was irreversible. She would need a heart transplant.

Courtney spent 10 weeks at Children’s Hospital Colorado, getting stable enough to be placed on the transplant list. Then just a week later, the Doells got the call.

Shilo said, “Probably one of the most exciting things was how happy she was to get the call ‘we have a heart for you.’”

“Here’s a 16-year-old going in for her second major heart surgery, she was at peace with it, smiling. You could tell she is at peace with it, and ready to move on with the next chapter of her life and she couldn’t do it without a new heart," Courtney's dad said.

Within hours of the transplant, Courtney and her parents noticed a huge difference.

“I was laying in her hospital bed with her and I could feel pulse in her neck and arm and wrist her hands and arms and feet are pink and warm. The next morning is really when we saw the color in her face and I was just holding onto her thumb ... I could feel this strong pulse beating ... her chest was pounding. Compared to what it was before, it was vibrant,” Shilo said.

Sheldon added, “She mentioned she could feel her heart beating, and I don’t honestly think she could feel her heart beat because of how sick she was. She can actually feel it working now, that’s pretty neat.”

Courtney donated her own heart to research.

She hopes doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado can learn from it and help children in the future. She and her family want to thank the staff at Children’s Hospital.

They also want to raise awareness about the importance of organ donations. And they want to thank the donor and that person’s family.

Shilo said, “If they ever see this and if we ever get to meet them, I want them to know I’m so grateful for the gift they have given and what a legacy they are leaving.”

Sheldon said, “It honestly means our daughter has a second chance at life. A gift of having a second chance is incredible. You can’t repay it, you can’t thank people enough for it. By her living well is the only way to repay it.”

Courtney still has a long road of recovery ahead of her.

Her parents are committed to staying by her side to support her. Her mother won’t be able to return to work for some time. Her father, a Denver police officer, works all night and then spends the rest of his days at the hospital. If you would like to help them financially, visit their GoFundMe page here.

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