Sofia Sanchez, from Downers Grove, IL, will be 11 on August 18 and has been waiting for a new heart at Lurie Children’s for the past several weeks. She has two wishes for her birthday: to get her new heart and to meet her idol, Drake, who is performing Friday and Saturday at the United Center in Chicago. “I’ve been here for seven weeks and I just had open heart surgery because I have heart failure,” says Sofia.
In hopes of meeting him, she and her cousin performed the KiKi Dance down the hospital hallway tethered to her IV pump and taped a video message from her hospital bed asking Drake to visit her at Lurie Children’s. Sofia’s message to Drake, “This week’s my birthday and this week’s your concert and I was hoping you could come cheer me up. I did the KiKi challenge. When you come here, I can show you. I hope you can come and cheer me up!”
Sofia was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition that often leads to heart failure and need for heart transplantation in order to survive. “The function of her heart is not very good. It affected the way she was feeling, how she was doing, her strength, how her organs worked – her kidney, her liver,” says Stuart Berger, MD, Executive Director of Heart Center and a pediatric cardiologist.
Three weeks ago, she underwent open heart surgery in order to connect a VAD (ventricular assist device), which is a mechanical pump that helps support the heart and blood flow in people with heart failure. Most often, it serves as a bridge to heart transplantation. Each year Lurie Children’s performs only four VADs. “It helps my heart pump and helps me get stronger for my heart transplant,” says Sofia of her VAD. “I need a heart so I can go home.”
In July, Lurie Children’s heart transplant team performed their 300th heart transplant and the next heart recipient will be #305. Lurie Children’s heart transplant team has performed 22 heart transplants so far this year. It has one of the largest pediatric heart transplant programs in the Midwest and was recently ranked the 3rd best Pediatric Cardiology & Heart Surgery hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. In the last several years, Lurie Children’s has recruited some of the top pediatric heart transplant specialists in the country.