Baby gets lifesaving heart transplant moments after church halts - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Baby gets lifesaving heart transplant moments after church halts service to pray for her

(Photo courtesy family) (Photo courtesy family)

In the darkest of moments some find light shining under the steeple. Faith was all Melanie and Mike Leitner could cling to after hearing their precious baby girl may not live to see her first birthday.

"We were told that Ella had a large mass in the left ventricle of her heart and to prepare ourselves that she would not make it through the weekend," Melanie said.

Dr. Gonzalo Wallis is the Medical Director over Levine Children's Hospital's pediatric heart transplant program. He says it didn't take long for them to decide a transplant was Ella Kate's only chance to survive.

"We were in a race against time for Ella Kate, she was starting to get very sick," he said.

In November, her name went on the transplant list as the tiny baby's body continued to fail.

"I had actually called into cardiology and I had said, 'she's getting worse. She's gray all the time and she's not breathing well and she's making these gasping sounds,'" Melanie said.

Two months later on January 29, Melanie and Mike found comfort in their sanctuary as their pastor at Abundant Life Foursquare Church in Mooresville stopped the service.

"Said our little girl is failing, she's getting sicker and we need to pray. They prayed over her and they prayed over us," she said.

As they prayed over Ella Kate, another prayer was being said in Charlotte as the hospital dedicated its new MedCenter aircraft. Two prayers. Around the same time.

That plane would pick up Ella Kate's new heart a few hours later.

"On our way home from church we got the call that changed our world. Celine, our other coordinator, called and said we got the offer for the perfect heart for Ella," Melanie said. "If this wasn't a God moment, I don't know what could be."

What's even more interesting is that the heart beating inside Ella Kate isn't her blood type. Surgeons performed what's known as an ABO incompatible heart transplant. It was Levine's first ever.

"I was seeing a child get sick in front of my eyes and I had nothing to offer, and finally we do this and they're doing great," Dr. Wallis said.

At one year and one week old, Ella Kate is thriving. But her parents don't forget their joy came out of someone's loss.

"You know that another family has lost their child, and you know that in their darkest moments they were able make the decision that saved my little girl," Melanie said. "We will be eternally grateful for that."

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