Cora gets a heart
"Heart is in and beating on its own already and it went great!" is the message Rachelle Dominguez sent out to family just one day after she had received the call that a new heart was waiting for her 7-year-old daughter Cora.
Cora, a Carus Elementary student, was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a defect in which the left side of the heart does not develop fully. She also has coexisting heart defects.
When she was four years old, it became apparent she would need a transplant much sooner than anyone expected. Her energy began to wane, and her family became accustomed to her purple lips, fingers and toes. At the recommendation of her medical team at Seattle Children's Hospital, she was placed on the organ transplant list in August 2017.
Now, a year later, Cora sits in the Seattle hospital with pink lips, fingers and toes, baring a new scar on her chest—physical manifestations of the full-sized heart pumping blood throughout her body.
"Her color is amazing and she is no longer purple," Dominguez said. "[Cora] said, 'Mom, feel my hands and feet—they are warm.' "
When Cora was placed on the list last August, Dominguez had no way of knowing when a heart would become available. All they could do was prepare and wait. The call came the evening of Sunday, Sept. 2 while Dominguez was out grocery shopping.
"They always tell you to be prepared to leave at any time, and I felt I was prepared, and it quickly became apparent I was not," Dominguez said. "I was shocked because I felt we had more time. I had so many emotions going at one time. We are also advised that there could be false alarms—that once we get there it may not have been the perfect match, so we are sent home. I didn't know if we were going to be staying for good and if it was really happening."
Uncertainties aside, Dominguez and her daughter got in the car and made the journey to Seattle. By Monday, Sept. 3 at about 5 p.m., Dominguez sent the message to family that the heart was in and beating.
So far, Cora is doing well physically, but emotionally, is a bit overwhelmed.
"If it's overwhelming to an adult, you can imagine how a child would feel," Dominguez said.
Seattle Children's Hospital has an excellent specialist on staff, Dominguez said, that has been in to play and talk with Cora.
Cora's outlook is positive, and the heart is expected to last her 10 years before she will need a second transplant, the doctor told Dominguez. But she has a long road ahead. Between monitoring and follow-up appointments, she will have to stay in Seattle for another three to four months.
Through donations, especially from the community of Canby, Dominguez has been able to be away from work and by Cora's side.
Among the supporters was Lee Elementary, which held a fundraiser at the end of the 2017-18 school year for Cora, according to family member Janeen Scott, who is helping with fundraising efforts along with other friends and family. Students could pay .25 cents to wear sunglasses or a hat to school or .50 cents to wear both. In all, Lee raised about $1,200.
"I want to say thank you to everybody who has just decided to log in and donated even a little something," Scott said. "Everything has helped and we're super appreciative. And also all the support that people have given and the prayers. It's been very touching."
Dominguez, too, expressed thanks for the support the family has received.
"I also want to say how grateful and thankful I am for the Canby community," Dominguez said. "They have been gracious starting a meal train and all the prayers and messages Cora has been receiving. I can't reply to everyone, so a big thank you."
Dominguez has other children at home and will likely need to be back and forth between Canby and Seattle in the upcoming months. With the transplant delaying planned fundraising events, the family is still in need of community support.
They are accepting donations through the Children's Organ Transplant Association at COTAforTeamCoraS.com.
Checks and money orders can be sent directly to COTA at 2501 West COTA Drive, Bloomington, Indiana, 47403. Checks should be made payable to COTA with "In Honor of Team Cora S" written in the memo line.