Infant Georgia Hubbs receives total heart transplant before first birthday
Listed in the dictionary under the words “amazing” and “fighter”, there should be a photo of little Georgia Hubbs from Rockholds, KY, who just celebrated her first birthday. Georgia was born February 13, 2018 with what her mom described on social media as half a heart, and she is a true fighter.
Georgia’s mother, Amanda Jackson-Hubbs, said she found out Georgia had a health condition while she was pregnant. Tests ran during the pregnancy showed that her baby had Ventricular Septum Defect (VSD) which is non-life threatening. Amanda’s doctor at the time told her that the baby’s condition wasn’t really a big deal and that Georgia would probably need a surgery around 6-months of age to correct the condition.
However, when Georgia was born, an echocardiogram proved her condition was even more severe than initially thought. Her medical diagnosis then was Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS).
Unlike VSD, HLHS is very life threatening. It is a critical congenital heart defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. Statistics say approximately 1 in 4,344 babies are born in the United States each year with HLHS. Most babies with HLHS will not survive without having at least a set of three surgeries spread over several years to correct the condition.
Usually HLHS patients have to have a heart transplant at some point in their life.
Unfortunately, the diagnosis of HLHS was not the only thing affecting little Georgia’s heart. In addition, she had many other serious defects and issues that would require her to have a total heart transplant, as soon as possible.
While waiting, Georgia had two surgeries to keep her heart working and keep her alive until a heart became available to her.
In March of 2018, just about a month after she was born, she was sent for a heart catheterization for Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) closure, and then had her first heart surgery to correct a pulmonary artery leakage.
Georgia endured another surgery in June to do what is called a Glenn procedure, which is to reroute the baby’s blood flow from the upper body to the lungs.
Miraculously, Amanda and her husband, Frank Hubbs, received the phone call on November 27 that a heart was available. Georgia underwent transplant surgery and received a donor’s heart on November 28.
Pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, James S. Tweddell, MD performed the tiny heart transplant at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Amanda has only good things to say about Dr. Tweddell and the surgery he performed.
“She is doing amazing,” said Amanda “She was so sick. She didn’t have much fight left. They wouldn’t tell us that, but afterwards I seen it. She was just so sick.”
Since the transplant, Georgia had a heart catheterization and three biopsies performed before she was released to come home. She has spent her entire life at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with the exception of a few months at the Ronald McDonald House.
Biopsies will now be required periodically to make sure Georgia’s body is not rejecting the heart. She will have to take immunosuppressants for the rest of her life, to keep her immune system from attacking the newly transplanted organ.
“She can build a little bit of an immune system, but it will never be like yours and mine,” said Amanda.
“After a heart transplant, or any transplant, your body fights to reject it for the rest of your life. It’s just like if you get a splinter in your finger, your body doesn’t think it is supposed to be there, so it fights against it. They give her medicine to make it not fight against it,” explained Amanda.
It has been really hard on the couple, as they are still in the newlywed stage, so to speak. They have spent months at a time apart, with Amanda being in Cincinnati with Georgia and Frank trying to continue work and life here to support them. She says they weren’t married long before Georgia was born, but they have known each other their whole lives. The two grew up together, went to elementary school together and lived only about a mile from each other. She says their families have also known each other and their grandparents went to church together for years.
“It’s been rough, we’ve learned a lot about communication and stuff. We talk about things a lot,” said Amanda.
Although it is a long way down the road, Amanda says Georgia will eventually be able to go to school, etc. Although for the first part of her life and until her immune system improves quite a bit, she intends to home school her.
“She is very happy. We’ve always kept positive. Even when it’s been really bad, we’ve tried to be positive,” said Amanda.
The family has had a couple of t-shirt fundraisers to help with the medical bills and expenses.
“We have an amazing church, Buffalo Missionary in Rockholds is awesome. They’ve done fundraisers, as well as my cousins in Tidalwave Road, a bluegrass band, have done fundraisers. They are awesome,” said Amanda.
Georgia is finally home. She was released and the family arrived at their Rockholds home Wednesday, February 20 after 372 days in Cincinnati.
“Become an organ donor. It is very important,” said Amanda. “Everybody loves Georgia.”
Organ donation and giving the gift of life to someone in need is a major decision. This family is definitely grateful to have received such a gift.