Transplant mends Mundelein baby’s ‘broken’ heart
Madie gets one of her first bottle feeds from mom after her heart transplant, Marcey Gaughan holds Madie while dad, Matt Gaughan looks on adoringly. | Photo courtesy of the Gaughan family.
Updated: February 18, 2013 10:27AM
MUNDELEIN — Already the parents of two children before Madie came along, Marcey and Matt Gaughan had weathered challenging pregnancies and deliveries.
But the Mundelein couple said those experiences did not prepare them for what happened next.
Speaking from a hospital room in the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee this month, Marcey Gaughan said her family’s surprising journey started even before Madie arrived on Oct. 10, 2012.
Madie, whose full name is Madison, was a bit of a miracle, her mother said. Marcey’s doctors told her years ago that she was unlikely to conceive naturally; That’s why her first two children, Matthew, 5, and Molly, 3, were born with the aid of in-vitro fertilization, or IVF.
So Marcey said she was taken by surprise when, on June 13 of last year, she found out she was more than five months pregnant with no medical help.
The family was overjoyed, but their joy turned to worry and fear two weeks later, after Marcey’s ultrasound: Madie was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
Doctors told Marcey that the condition occurs in less than 1 percent of babies, she said. It meant Madie was missing a chamber of her heart and would need a transplant to survive.
Breaking the news to their children was not easy, the couple said.
“We told them Madie’s heart was broken,” Marcey said. “Matthew immediately asked if she was going to die.”
Madie went on the list for a transplant on Oct. 26, and her mother fought tears remembering that day.
“It was a blow,” she said. “We didn’t know what to expect. It was an absolute shock.”
News of Madie’s condition inspired an outpouring of help from family and friends.
It began with a friend of Marcey’s reaching out for information and locating a specialist in conditions like Madie’s, Dr. James Tweddell. Tweddell performed the transplant on Jan. 29.
Though thrilled when she initially learned Madie would get a heart, Marcey said she instantly sympathized with the parents of the child who would become Madie’s donor.
“I immediately said a prayer for them,” she said.
Though organ adoption is anonymous at first, Marcey said her family is allowed to send a letter to the donor family in six months, and perhaps one day meet them. The Gaughans already started drafting that letter, they said.
But if Marcey had to thank anyone else, she said her family and friends deserve it most.
Last month, they organize a fundraiser for the Gaughans at Libertyville’s Mickey Finn’s Brewery. They publicized it solely through word of mouth and Facebook, yet more than 350 people attended and raised more than $18,000 to help cover travel expenses and other costs.
“It blew us away,” Marcey said. “People came who I hadn’t seen in 15 years. It was so touching to see them all there for a little girl they’ve never met.”
“The outpouring of love and support we’ve received has been incredible,” Madie’s dad, Matt, added. “Our family helped with everything from making meals, to picking up the kids from school, to hanging Christmas lights.”
Today, her parents say Madie may come home to Mundelein in as little as four weeks, though it could take longer for her to learn to feed normally.
Although she will be on medication forever, her parents said their daughter is resilient and will otherwise lead a normal life.
“She’s an amazing little girl,” Matt said.