Girl Who Received First-of-Its Kind Heart Transplant Is Thriving — and Just Turned 1! (Exclusive)

“Celebrating Brooklyn’s first birthday knowing she has a healthy, normally functioning heart means the world to us,” mom Sam

A New Jersey couple is celebrating their daughter’s first birthday nine months after she became a recipient of a revolutionary partial heart transplant, which ended up saving her life as well as another baby’s.

On Feb. 18, Brooklyn Civil’s loved ones marked the milestone with a bumblebee-themed bash, complete with a beehive-shaped smash cake, to celebrate the little girl who helped make medical history.

“It felt incredible to be able to celebrate her with all of our family and friends,” Sam Civil, Brooklyn’s mother.

Making the event even more special? Knowing just how far Brooklyn has come.

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It was during Sam’s 20-week ultrasound when the Civils found out their little girl had “something wrong” with her heart: a rare condition known as truncus arteriosus. According to NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, where the pioneering surgery was performed, her heart never developed a pulmonary valve and aortic valve, which are both needed to pump blood out from the heart.

Instead, Brooklyn was born with a “single outflow valve, known as a truncal valve, and a hole between the two pumping chambers of her heart.”

“It was scary,” “But everybody was very positive and optimistic that even though she would have to have surgeries, she would also be able to lead a fairly normal life.”

At just 4 days old, Brooklyn underwent her first surgery, where doctors were able to fix some of the issues with her heart, Sam says.

“But we knew she was going to need more surgeries, and we knew that another surgery was kind of imminent,” . “We didn’t know exactly when, but we were thinking probably about in a month or two.”

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On the morning of May 10, 2023, the Civils received a call from their doctor who explained that Brooklyn was a candidate for a domino transplant, where she would receive healthy valves from another baby — 8-month-olld Mia Skaats, who was also undergoing a full heart transplant.

“It all kind of came to fruition and we found out it was all within a couple hours that the idea happened, and they discussed it, and then they called us and then it happened,” Sam says.

“To me, the biggest part of this is that we went from helping one baby to two,” Dr. Marc Richmond, the pediatric cardiologist who led the girls’ medical care teams, said in a hospital news release.

Richmond added, “The No. 1 reason babies die while on a transplant list is because they don’t match with a donor fast enough. So the ability to help more than one child — that’s the holy grail for us. There were dozens of people in the hospital caring directly for both children. It was a whole team effort.”

Several months later, the babies were thriving. In an appearance on the Today show last August, Mia cooed and wriggled in her mother Nicole’s arms, while Brooklyn sat content on Sam’s lap.

The two babies have met up a couple of times since the surgery, along with their thankful parents, of course — and the Civils say the bond between themselves and the Skaats is one that will never be broken.

“As Brooklyn and Mia get older and their immune systems are kind of a little bit more sturdy, we definitely plan on getting them together and we want them to be part of each other’s lives for sure,” .
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The families are planning another one-year celebration in May to mark a year since their baby girls’ surgeries.

Until then, the Civils say they are soaking up every minute with Brooklyn, who happens to be “the sweetest baby in the world,” her beaming dad says.

“She really is so sweet,” Andre gushes. “She’s holding onto furniture or our fingers and cruising around. She’s a nervous Nelly though. Every time we try to let go of her, she is able to stand. But as soon as she realizes she’s on her own, she’s like, ‘Oh, no.’ But she’s smiling. She loves to blow kisses, she loves to wave. She waves at everyone and everything.”

“Celebrating Brooklyn’s first birthday knowing she has a healthy, normally functioning heart means the world to us,” Sam adds. “We were so unsure what her first year would look like, but thanks to the beautiful gift given to us by Mia and her family and the doctors, we were able to enjoy her birthday and celebrate her strength and resilience without worry or fear of what her future holds.”

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