Children's health

One family's Christmas wish: A healthy heart for Teresa

Dec. 24, 2012 at 8:08 AM ET

Ed and Ann Bartlinski are hoping for their own miracle on 34th Street this year.

They’re praying they’ll get the call to come to 34th Street in Philadelphia so their adopted daughter Teresa can get a life-saving heart transplant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Each day that ticks by is a miracle of sorts for the little girl that doctors feared might not even make it through the long plane ride from China to her new home in Maryland. “For that 15-hour flight home, it was just pins and needles the entire time,” Ed told TODAY’s Tom Costello. “Her lips were blue.” 

Teresa was born with a shortened arm and a literally broken heart that resulted from a congenital defect named hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Kids with the syndrome end up with an underdeveloped left ventricle. In Teresa’s case, that also led to permanently damaged lungs, which made the little girl who will turn 6 on Christmas day, unbearably frail.

It was that fragility that first called out to the Bartlinskis, who already had eight kids back in Catonsville, Md., four of them adopted.

“Our whole intent was to bring her home, to let her know the love of a family,” Ann said. “We knew she was terminally ill.”

It was during the adoption process that it first became clear that someone might be watching over little Teresa. Adoptions can take a long time -- years, in fact -- but when the Bartlinskis called immigration for help speeding up the process for the sickly little girl, officer Cindy Jones stepped in.

“I thought, how can I not help,” Jones told Costello. “How can I not do everything for them?”

And in just 42 days, Teresa got approval for adoption.

For the past two-and-a-half years, Teresa has been learning ballet and English, her oxygen supply trailing behind her all the while.

Though Teresa initially looked too frail to survive a surgery, she’s flourished with the Bartlinskis and is now at the top of the heart transplant list because of the urgency of her case.

“It’s a high risk procedure,” Dr. Joseph Rossano, a pediatric cardiologist and medical director of the Heart Transplantation Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia told the Baltimore Sun. “We’re hoping it is going to offer her a longer life and a better quality of life than she has currently.”

In November, Rossano thought he had a heart for Teresa, but at the last minute her family was told that the heart wasn’t a good match.

Now the family is hoping for the best Christmas gift they could ask for – a healthy heart for Teresa.

That, Ann said, would be “the best Christmas gift ever. For sure. The best birthday gift ever.” 

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