Norwalk Teen Receives ‘Second Chance at Life’ With Heart Transplant on Christmas Eve

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — An 18-year-old from Norwalk received the Christmas gift of a lifetime: a new heart.

Brooklyn Soroka now has a second chance at life after spending Christmas Eve undergoing surgery. She is on her way to doing the things most teens take for granted, all thanks to a team of doctors and an organ donor.

Brooklyn’s surgery came five years after her life was turned upside down when she fainted in gym class.

“Due to that instance, she visited a pediatrician who referred us to the cardiologist. That cardiologist determined during our visit that her heart contracts but does not relax during each beat,” said Brooklyn’s mother, Dana Soroka.

Doctors diagnosed Brooklyn with mixed cardiomyopathies — a rare and life-threatening combination of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is best known for being the cause of sudden death cases in basketball players on the court.

The discovery forced Brooklyn to change her entire life. She could no longer participate in dance, gymnastics or even take a trip without worrying that her heart would give out.

In February, Brooklyn was put on the organ transplant list, hoping to receive a new heart. On Wednesday, the Sorokas got the call they had been waiting for. They were notified that a donor heart was available, and Brooklyn went into surgery at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Christmas Eve.

“In general, everything went very, very well. We were very pleased with the surgery. She did well in the operating room. So far, in the first day and a half post transplant, she is doing great,” said Dr. Rabia Khan, a cardiologist on Brooklyn’s pediatric heart transplant team.

The doctors are optimistic about the long-term success of the heart transplant, but Brooklyn isn’t out of the woods quite yet. She will have to stay at the hospital for the next few weeks, then monitor her progress at home. Still, her family says they are overjoyed that she will get a second chance to do what she loves.

“She gets to proceed with her life and do the things that her friends are doing, do the things that she always wanted to do,” said Dana Soroka. “We get to watch her do all these things that she dreams. We get to watch her now go back to college and and continue pursuing her dreams.”

The Sorokas say they are forever grateful to the family of the heart donor.

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