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Heart transplant
Morgan Price

Grandmother Dorothy Johnson of Birmingham is among Children’s of Alabama’s most vocal champions. She witnessed first-hand the skilled and compassionate care of doctors and staff when her granddaughter, Morgan Price, was admitted to Children’s in September 2014.

Morgan was born on July 7, 2014 with high bilirubin levels and jaundice. Then, just two weeks after Morgan’s birth, Morgan’s mother and Dorothy’s daughter, Arica, called 911 in a panic, telling emergency responders that Morgan was choking and seizing. A chest X-ray revealed Morgan had an enlarged heart. She was later diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood is decreased.

Morgan was first prescribed medication to help alleviate her symptoms, but her heart grew larger and weaker. Dorothy won’t soon forget the conversation that followed – “At this point, we need to talk about a transplant.”

“There were a whole lot of tears, but I had to maintain my cool for Arica. I had to be strong for her,” Dorothy said.

On November 2, 2014, Morgan received a new heart. The morning of her surgery, several members of Morgan’s family sat in the waiting area when a man with a cooler attempted to enter the surgery area. Arica assisted him by asking a nurse to open the door for him. When the man returned to the waiting area, Arica asked him if the cooler had a heart in it. He said it did.

“Arica turned to me and said, ‘I bet that was my baby’s heart.’ It turns out Arica met Morgan’s heart before she did,” Dorothy said.

Before, during and after Morgan’s surgery, Dorothy didn’t hesitate to ask questions of Morgan’s doctors and nurses. The family wanted to know every detail of the procedure, and Morgan’s care team didn’t tire of Dorothy’s curiosity.

“Any questions we asked Dr. [F. Bennett] Pearce, he was right on it. He is the most patient person in the whole wide world,” Dorothy said. “He never made it seem like I asked too many questions or dumb questions. He’s always explained everything in terms we understood.”

Morgan’s recovery was swift, but not without some hiccups. Morgan’s multidisciplinary care team once again saw Morgan and her family through post-transplant hurdles.

“It was just amazing to see how fast she progressed and didn’t appear to be in a whole of pain. It was remarkable,” Dorothy said. “She’s been through a lot, but you would never know it. If you didn’t see her scar, you would not know anything was wrong with this child. She looks like a typical 3-year-old, walking and talking nonstop and reaching all of her milestones.”

Exactly one month after her transplant, Morgan’s was discharged home on December 2, 2014. In the three-and-a-half years since Morgan’s surgery, Dorothy talks up Children’s to anyone who will listen. She also remains in touch with the staff as well as the patient families she and her family grew close to during their hospital stay. Without them, Dorothy said, the experience would’ve been impossible to bear.

“Every time I get an opportunity to talk up Children’s of Alabama, I do,” Dorothy said. “You can tell they genuinely love the kids and we absolutely love Children’s.”
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