Nevada Toddler Celebrates ‘Heart-iversary’

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NEVADA, Iowa — A family in Nevada is marking a special milestone.  This weekend, the Bartleson’s will celebrate their 20-month old daughter’s “Heartiversary”.  It’s the one year anniversary of her second chance at life.

“We don’t take any single day for granted,” said Kelli Bartleson.

The little things in life like eating at the kitchen table and playing in the backyard mean the most to her and her husband, Brandon.

“Sometimes it just seems so unreal, like ‘Wow we made it this far’ because there was many nights in the hospital that I didn’t know if we were going home as a family of two or three,” she said.

When their daughter, Jaylee, was born, they thought she was a healthy baby. 

“She was just smaller.  We never had any good explanation why,” explained Kelli.

After all sorts of tests, trips to the doctor and the emergency room, they learned Jaylee had Cardiomyopathy and surgery couldn’t fix her enlarged heart.  Just 9-months-old, she needed a new heart.

Jaylee spent four months at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital before finally getting the all clear to come home.

“We love those stories.  That’s why we do the work that we do and that certainly inspires us to continue to work harder than ever to try to recover more organs and to save more lives,” said Heather Butterfield with the Iowa Donor Network.

Butterfield says every life saved is special.  Jaylee’s transplant journey is even more so.

“We certainly don’t see as many transplants when they’re that young.  And so it’s an incredible gift that we’re able to make that happen,” said Butterfield.

While their family celebrates a milestone, they can’t forget another family’s heartache.

“In this time of celebration for us, we have to remember they lost a very precious, very young.  It’s hard for me to wrap my head around,” said Kelli.

“Our miracle was someone else’s good-bye,” said Brandon Bartleson.

The Bartlesons say their little girl’s heart knows nothing but love in their family and is being very well taken care of.

Jaylee’s “Heartiversary” is this Sunday, April 26th.  The family has a special celebration planned.  They will be planting a tree and holding a balloon release for family and friends who will take part in the safety of their cars.

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