Sawyer's Heartiversary




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Sawyer Kelly, Indianapolis

When your child is born sick, there are many things that inevitably weigh on you – fear, grief, and helplessness to name a few. 

From the moment our baby was born with half a heart, we were faced with many unknowns and met with the incomprehensible challenge of handing her over to a team of doctors and nurses we didn’t know. What experience did these strangers have with kids like Sawyer? Would they treat her with the love and care she deserved?

It was hard then, to hand over control to nurses and doctors we didn’t know. Over time, we grew to love them like family. We cried with them, laughed with them, celebrated with them, and poured every ounce of our trust and faith into their hands. 

One year ago, after many difficult months of surgeries, central lines, ventilators, cardiac arrests, ECMO, and so much more – we handed our daughter over for the ultimate test of our trust. We placed our perfect 9 month old into the care of Dr. Mark Turrentine for a heart transplant. 

One year ago, Sawyer’s native heart beat its very last beat. One year ago, Dr. Mark Turrentine removed her tired heart and replaced it with a healthy, beautiful heart gifted by an incredible and courageous family. Sawyer had undergone many surgeries prior to this moment, but none that felt quite so final as a transplant. This surgery was different. 

It was Sawyer’s last chance, her last resort.  

As we sat alone in the surgery waiting room, well into the wee hours of the morning, we felt that surge of anxiety that comes with your child being in surgery. However, that anxiety was met with a special sort of peace, knowing that Sawyer was safe in Dr. Turrentine’s hands – knowing that he cared for her as his own and would do everything in his power to give her life and vitality. We were at peace knowing that when surgery was over, she would return to the CVICU where she would be cared for by RN Tonya Whitaker – who we affectionately refer to as Aunt TT. 

We were at peace knowing that Dr. Valentine would be there through the night with her, that that Dr. Mastropietro and Dr. Lutfi would surely be by in the morning to greet this special girl and witness her renewed life. 

Now, as I write this very blog, I am in awe. One year ago, my child’s life was slipping away. Now, thanks to the incredible gift of organ donation and the most miraculous team of surgeons, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, child life specialists, and patient care assistants, I have the amazing honor and privilege of watching my toddler grow. 

She is rambunctious, smart, and into everything. Every person she meets is her best friend, as she doesn’t know a stranger. And most of all, she is so very full of life. As we celebrate Sawyer’s one year heartiversary, we know that it is in thanks to Riley Hospital for Children, and we will remain forever grateful. 


Samantha Kelly

Samantha Kelly and her husband Patrick are the parents of Riley heart patient Sawyer Kelly. Sawyer was born in July 2014 with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and received a transplant at Riley Hospital when she was 9 months old. The Kelly family lives in Indianapolis.


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