Unlikely group of teens lose their hearts, become friends

Families shocked that common flu-like symptoms led to heart transplants

Published: Monday, Aug. 15 2011 5:00 p.m. MDT

All the kids are looking forward to starting a new year in school, even if some, like 12-year-old MiaBella Brickey, won't be back until January at the soonest.

A black belt in Soo Bahk Do, Korean martial arts, MiaBella can't wait to return to her once active lifestyle.

She suffers from giant cell myocarditis, a rare but lethal heart disorder usually diagnosed at a young age. Few survive long enough to receive a new heart, but MiaBella, who is the first with the condition to be treated at Primary's and waited just three days for a new heart, has already beaten the odds.

"Anyone who tells me their kid has a temperature and is throwing up, I say, 'take them to the ER,' because that's how Mia's started," said Heidi Brickey, who watched her daughter compete in a soccer tournament the weekend before she was hospitalized. "It can turn out to be a big, big deal."

MiaBella spent 72 days in the hospital, not due to the heart transplant but because of complications that resulted from a sudden cardiac arrest and the days that ensued, putting her into hypothermic treatment — a cold-induced coma — that ultimately saved her life.

"I don't remember muc,h but I do remember having friends by me to share in it," she said.

The now-brittle girl, who uses a wheelchair to get around for the time being, lost 17 pounds of muscle mass throughout the ordeal and is anxious to get back to a normal life — as normal as it can be with someone else's heart.

"If I could recommend one thing to anyone, it would be for them to be an organ donor," Heidi Brickey said, adding that she'll definitely be seeking out the donor's family to offer her profound thanks.

"It's the greatest thing you can do with your life. It is passing on the gift of life."

Email: wleonard@desnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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