Kelly Jane Brosch was born in May of 1992 with a complex heart defect called truncus arteriosus, which only happens in about 1 out of every 10,000 births. Her doctors assured us that her heart was fixable and she had her first open-heart surgery when she was 3 weeks old. She had further repair surgeries when she was 9 months, 2 ½ years, and 5 years old. Each time Kelly would bounce back and return to her normal, happy, smiling self so quickly.

In the fall of 2002, when Kelly was 10, it was time for another repair surgery. She had a valve that was leaking badly and it needed to be replaced. We prepared ourselves for what we thought would be a 2 week hospitalization. As they always did, Kelly’s grandparents came down from their home in Wisconsin to support us, as well as take care of Kelly’s brother, Tom, who was 13 at the time. Unfortunately, things did not go well. Once the surgery began, Kelly’s surgeon found that Kelly’s heart was dying. He said later that he never would have imagined the damaged heart that was inside the smiling, active girl he had met only a couple of days earlier. The surgeon did what he could, and Kelly was brought back to the ICU on life support and was listed for a transplant. She went right to the top spot on the list. We waited with her for the longest week of our lives, and then on October 8, 2002, a heart was donated for Kelly. She went back into the OR for what would turn out to be a very complicated transplant surgery. And the challenges for Kelly didn’t end there. Over the next several weeks, she battled infections, a collapsed lung, and bleeding issues. Several weeks after her transplant, when she was finally taken out of her drug-induced coma, she had lost much of her muscle tone and the only movement she could make was to lift her fingertips off the bed. But once again, she bounced back. She worked hard. And she smiled.

In June of 2005, Kelly needed a stent placed in her new heart to relieve some pressure. During the procedure, the stent moved into one of the chambers of her heart and she needed to be taken back to the OR to retrieve it. During this surgery, Kelly suffered several strokes while on the heart-lung bypass machine. She has recovered remarkably once again, but she spent that summer and fall learning, for the 3rd time, how to walk, dress herself, feed herself, and write. You should have seen her face the first time she got back on her bicycle. We were ALL smiling that day.

This past February, Kelly needed treatment for high pressures in her lungs. It is a very unusual problem for a heart transplant patient to have, and we were told that the best place for treatment was Children’s Hospital of Boston. Our visit there was very successful and we were, once again, so appreciative of the advances being made in caring for kids like Kelly.

So that’s Kelly’s story, the abridged version anyway. And you can see that it doesn’t end with her transplant. Her new heart gave her the opportunity to go on, but it’s not a “free pass” by any means. She has to work harder than most of us these days. She has a lot of doctor’s appointments and tests. She takes many pills each day, and has developed diabetes, a fairly common side effect of her antirejection medication. But still, she always manages to smile, and inspires others to do the same.

— Kelly's story was written by her mom