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‘Every Day's a Blessing’: How 5-Month-old Heart-Lung Transplant Recipient Defied the Odds


A Missouri couple is thanking modern medicine for making their little boy one of the youngest heart and lung transplant patients in recent history.

Baby Jack was just 5 months old when doctors performed the life-saving, 10-hour-long surgery.

Chuck and Tiffany Palmer were 20 weeks into their pregnancy when doctors first discovered their unborn child only had half of a heart.

Though medical professionals assumed it was likely the child would die, little Jack continued to grow in the womb and was born at 39 weeks weighing a healthy 9 pounds, 3 ounces.

A Nightmare Decision

To the casual observer, he looked like a normal newborn. But according to an interview with the "Today" show, the Palmers were faced with a nightmare decision just moments after he was born.

They could withdraw his care and allow him to die – or get ready for the fight of their lives.

The couple chose to give little Jack a fighting chance. 

“We felt like withdrawing care would be inhumane,” Tiffany Palmer told "Today." That's because "his brain was perfect. His other organs were perfect. There was nothing else wrong with him but his heart and lungs,” she explained.

Doctors at St. Louis Children’s Hospital offered new hope to the family – there was the possibility little Jack would be a match for a donor.

The Palmers put their baby on the list for donor transplants and they waited. Dr. Pirooz Eghtesady, the chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, has performed over 200 heart surgeries and he felt Jack was a good candidate for success.

Jack's Medical 'Dream Team'

Eghtesady, who emigrated from Iran, teamed up with Dr. Stuart Sweet, medical director of the pediatric lung transplant program at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

Jack had the dream team on his side.

The two award-winning surgeons corrected his hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means the left side of the heart cannot pump oxygen-rich blood to the body properly.

His condition was so rare that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it only occurs in less than one thousand babies each year.

In a recent Facebook post, Tiffany is cautiously optimistic, telling followers, “Just remember, Jack is not cured. Like we said before, we traded in one set of problems for another.”

Little Jack was given that name because, "We wanted a good strong name, and we felt like Jack was it," dad, Chuck Palmer, told the Kansas City Star.

And he is living up to that name by defying all of the odds. Jack Liam Palmer has a long road ahead of him, but with the love of his parents and his 2-year-old brother, Max, and 11-year-old sister, Allison – he can make it.

In the weeks leading up to the life-saving surgery, Tiffany recalled Jack’s milestone, telling the Kansas City Star, “His firsts mean so much in multiple ways." 

"He wasn’t even supposed to be here, so each day is truly a blessing," she said. "Getting to hear him cry, getting to hold him, to give him a bath – every day is just a blessing.” 

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