Preemie Who Received a Heart Transplant Is Still a Fighter

A heart transplant surgery is no easy feat, especially one operated on a six-day-old baby who was also born seven weeks premature.

This was the case of Oliver Hope, a preemie born with a major heart defect (dilated cardiomyopathy) at Phoenix Children's Hospital in Arizona.

Before his birth, Oliver's parents were told about his unusually large heart (the left ventricle was seven times larger than the normal size), and also warned that he had a 58 percent chance of survival. If the baby wasn't stillborn, a few things still had to align to improve his chances of survival, which included being able to receive a successful heart transplant.

So when Caylyn Otto's water broke seven weeks before the due date in January, she was terrified about losing her baby. At the hospital, Oliver was born blue in the face, and he struggled to breathe.

But Oliver was a fighter; once he received a breathing tube, he started recovering in the NICU and was placed on a heart transplant list within four days. Two days later, a perfect match was found, and Oliver was immediately prepped for surgery; doctors spent 10 hours giving him a new heart.

And his happy, relieved parents were finally able to hold him for the first time after a few days.

Almost two months have passed since Oliver's surgery and continued recovery in the NICU, where doctors monitored his heart to see if his body would reject it. All signs are pointing to a strong recovery, which will be fortified by medication for the rest of his life. And now, baby Oliver is finally headed home.

"He's absolutely a miracle baby," his mom told Yahoo! Parenting. And speaking to CBS News, his dad, Chris Crawford, shared, "To go from, 'You're gonna lose him, you're gonna have a stillbirth,' to 'Here, hold your son, here, give your son a kiss, and we're gonna take him and make him better,' it was just whoa."

The hospital believes Oliver is the youngest patient to receive a heart transplant in history. Looking back on the surgery, Christopher Lindblade, M.D., Oliver's pediatric cardiologist said, "It still kind of gives me chills."

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com. She loves collecting children's picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea.

If your baby is a preemie, she will likely have some difficulties in the beginning. Find out how to help your premature baby--and your family-- thrive.

Photo of baby Oliver courtesy of the Oliver's Journey Facebook page

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