Tracy Leonard can say "I love you" all in one breath now.
"He told me that he loved me," Judy Leonard said. She held her son in her arms Tuesday for the first time since the 3-year-old received a heart transplant Saturday at the Loma Linda Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif."He doesn't take so many breaths between his words, so he can finish a sentence now," Judy said.
When Judy told her small son that she loved him, he told her he loved her, too, he wanted a drink of water and he wanted to go home.
He's pink now. The faint rosy pink of a youngster whose heart is pumping lots of blood to every corner of his body. "It's nice to see him pink," his mother said. "I'm excited that he looks so good."
Judy spoke with the Deseret News by telephone Tuesday shortly after holding her son. To Judy, all of life is pink right now. The son that was dying a week ago grows stronger and more alive each day.
He's growing madder, too. Tracy is angry because his mother and his nurses won't give him a drink of water.
"He's been telling everyone that he wants a drink and he wants it right now," Judy said.
The youngster is retaining water, a common problem after the transplant of a major organ. To combat the problem, doctors aren't letting Tracy have anything to drink - no matter how loudly and insistently he demands.
Not knowing that, Tracy continues to demand. "He has quite a temper," Judy said.
Judy is getting a kick out of her son's rage. A week ago, Tracy didn't have the strength for anger.
His eroding health began crumbling fast last week. "He was sleeping a lot more during the day, and he had completely stopped eating. We were lucky to get him to have a couple bites of a sandwich during the day. He was coughing real hard."
He was dying. Doctors told the Leonards their son was coughing hard because his lungs were deteriorating under pressure from a sick, oversized heart.
While the Leonards got ready to take Tracy to the doctor Friday to see if there was anything more that could be done for the cough, Loma Linda Medical Center called to they had a heart.
Tracy and his parents flew to California Friday on a medically equipped Lear jet owned by Primary Children's Medical Center.
The surgery was tricky. Tracy's own heart was in backward and on the wrong side of his chest. Doctors decided to implant the new one the same way.
There were other anatomical quirks. Tracy had two superior vena cavas instead of the usual one, Judy said. Doctors had to sew the two veins together and attach them to the donor heart. They also had to come up with a vessel that would carry blood from Tracy's heart to his lungs. Tracy didn't have one of his own.
"They brought one from the heart donor, put that in and hooked it up from one of the lungs," Judy said.
She's matter-of-fact about Tracy's medical oddities. "We were really happy they were able to hook everything up right," she said.
The Leonards have not been told who the donor was or the circumstances of the child's death. Apparently the child's family wants to remain anonymous, Judy said. She almost prefers it that way.
"I wouldn't know how to thank them enough for giving Tracy a longer life."
Judging from the statistics, Tracy is likely to get better and go home. Of the 13 children near his age who have received hearts, 10 are still living. "All of the children that have lived are doing excellent," Judy said. "They haven't had very many problems at all."
Tracy's biggest problem right now is his blood vessels. They've grown so accustomed to ripples of blood from a sick heart that the surges of blood from Tracy's new heart are too strong for the vessel walls.
The problem is being controlled by medication, Judy said.
There may be other problems. Tracy doesn't have a spleen, an organ critical to a child's immune system. His surgery marked the first time Loma Linda doctors have transplanted a heart into a child without a spleen.
No one is quite certain what complications that could create.
But Judy is looking past the pres-ent uncertainty into a future she has scarce dared dream about.
Tracy will grow quickly now, she said.
"He hasn't grown at all for 14 months," Judy said. "They said he would be growing real well after this."
Although 3, Tracy's body is the size of a toddler's. The youngster weighs only 18 pounds.
"I'm hoping he'll catch up," Judy said. "Mentally he has not slowed down at all."
Judy isn't worried about the heart that's in backward and on the wrong side of Tracy's chest. Loma Linda surgeons implanted another heart in an equally muddled way into a 2-month-old infant two weeks ago. The baby is doing so well he was sent home only 10 days after surgery.
If Tracy doesn't get his drink of water, he may stalk out sooner than that.