A New Heart for Reagan
The gift of life gave this little girl the opportunity to survive and thrive.
By Catherine Ramsey
Kelly and Rick Potter were delighted with the birth of their precious daughter, Reagan. Kelly’s pregnancy had been completely normal, with no complications but, as the excited parents and big brother, Cameron, prepared to take Reagan home everything changed. During the final check-up a discharge nurse heard something unusual. The Potter family soon discovered Reagan had an undiagnosed congenital heart defect—Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
In hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), the heart’s left side — including the aorta, aortic valve, left ventricle and mitral valve — is underdeveloped.
Reagan would require three critical surgeries to survive. At 5 days old Regan was flown to Charleston, had her first surgery and remained there for about a month. At six months old, she had her second surgery, which went really well; and Reagan was back home within a week. She was beginning to grow and progress nicely, but before the third surgery, her heart gave out. That was two weeks before Reagan’s first Christmas.
Reagan was flown back to Charleston and the on the day before Christmas Eve she was put on a life support system that essentially served as her heart and lungs for 22 days, but it was causing her other organs to suffer. She was revived four times within two weeks.
Reagan’s only remaining chance to survive was a heart transplant. She was placed on the transplant list the day before New Year’s Eve in 2005. Her parents were told that Reagan’s heart was not working and there was little hope unless she received a donated heart.
"I was still hopeful," said Reagan’s mom Kelly Potter. "I hoped someone would make that decision ... I was hopeful that it was going to come."
Through the generosity of a donor family, Reagan received the new heart she needed on Jan. 14, 2006. "Every day ... I think about them every day. My daughter would not be here if they didn’t make that decision," Kelly says. "I am so grateful the donor’s family was so courageous. They gave life to us all!"
This January Reagan celebrated her 10th Heart Day and she is doing remarkably well. There have been some setbacks over the last 10 years but now Reagan is doing great and is doing everything her big brother does.
Reagan will be honored at the 2016 Midlands Heart Walk as the Midlands Heart Hero. The whole family participates in the Midlands Walk to raise awareness and funds for research so that other families can share life’s precious moments together like the ones the Potters are so thankful to enjoy.
To learn more about the American Heart Association and how you can get involved, visit www.midlandsheartwalk.org