By the time she was 7 years old, Alirix had already had three hearts: the one she was born with, the artificial heart that kept her alive while awaiting a transplant, and the donor heart that saved her life.
Alirix seemed perfectly healthy when she was born, but by age 2 she was having trouble breathing. After a series of tests in her home state of Kansas, Alirix’s family came to Children's Hospital Colorado where she was diagnosed with a severe heart defect: idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.
By age 6, Alirix’s condition had become dire to the point that she had to be hospitalized. That’s when doctors at Children’s Colorado performed a surgery to implant a blood-pumping device known as a Berlin Heart. As Alirix and her family anxiously awaited a donor heart, the Berlin Heart was the only thing keeping her alive.
Despite her precarious situation, Alirix kept her spirits up and lit up the lives of the caregivers who were treating her. She loved playing “salon” with her nurses to pass the time. She’d paint their nails, and one nurse even let Alirix dye her hair bright pink. Her heart may have been failing, but it was as big as ever.
“It felt like my daughter was much more than just a patient at Children’s Colorado," said Sasha, Alirix's mother. "Our care team felt more like family and friends who were there to support us.”
After two months of uncertainty at Children’s Colorado, Alirix and her family received the news they’d been waiting for: Alirix had been matched to a donor heart.
Alirix’s transplant surgery lasted for nearly 11 hours. When it was over, she had a new, healthy heart beating in her chest, and it has been doing so ever since.
“She’s been doing really well,” said Sasha. “We’ve had no complications or rejection episodes. She is much more active then she used to be.”
The surgery’s success was thanks in part to the nationally acclaimed experts at the Children's Colorado Heart Institute. Ranked No. 7 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, the Heart Institute treats more than 20,000 patients each year with some of the best outcomes in the nation.
Donors to Children’s Colorado support world-class care, family support services and groundbreaking research to help kids like Alirix. Together, we can continue to provide extraordinary care to every child who needs us.