MADAWASKA, Maine — Alyssa Thibodeau, the 15-year-old from Madawaska in need of a new heart, has undergone successful transplant surgery in Boston and there is every indication she is on the way to a full recovery.
According to her father John Thibodeau, speaking Friday from Children’s Hospital Boston, the family received word late Wednesday night a donor heart had been located and Alyssa was scheduled for transplant surgery the following day.
“The surgery went extremely well, there were no complications [and] everything fell into place just right,” John Thibodeau said. “The new heart is beating strong.”
Alyssa Thibodeau was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy — a deterioration of the heart muscle — two years ago and earlier this year was placed at the top of the transplant list.
She has been in Boston since early March waiting for a donor heart.
“We got the call Wednesday night around 11 p.m. … that a donor heart was available and that everything looked good,” John Thibodeau said. “This was the one for Alyssa.”
The news, welcome though it was, did not result in an all-out rush for John Thibodeau to get to Boston from Madawaska that night, as he and Alyssa’s mother, Jessica Thibodeau, had already gone through one false alarm.
In mid-March the family got similar word that a donor heart had been found, but by the time Alyssa’s parents arrived in Boston — a nine-hour drive south from Madawaska — they learned the heart had been deemed unsuitable for their daughter.
At the time, Alyssa was philosophical about waking up after being prepped for surgery and discovering she still had her old heart.
Soon after Alyssa said she had little memory of waking up but recalled later that night being upset the surgery did not go as planned.
“But I understand why it was done,” she said in March. “I’d rather have that happen five times than to have a heart put into me that isn’t completely right for me.”
This time it was different.
John Thibodeau said his daughter had been doing well enough recently that the hospital had discharged her and she had been staying with her aunt Rhonda Thibodeau in the Boston area while awaiting a heart.
“My sister Rhonda got her ready when they got the call and brought her to the hospital to start the pre-operative preparations,” John Thibodeau said. “Because we had that dry run earlier, we did not rush down and took the time to take care of what needed to be done back at home.”
Alyssa went into surgery around noon on Thursday and five hours later the new heart was in place and beating on its own.
During a portion of the operation between the time the old heart was removed and the new one in place, Alyssa was hooked to a bypass machine that pumped the blood for her.
“We are really relieved and happy this was not a long, drawn out wait for her,” John Thibodeau said. “It went without issue and she seems just great.”
The family had been warned it could take close to a year before a donor heart was found.
Thibodeau said he knows nothing about the donor and the family may never know where the life-saving organ originated.
“I am truly grateful to the donor and that family,” John Thibodeau said. “I am definitely grateful whether it was the donor or his or her family that made that decision because it allows my daughter to have a chance at a long life.”
Her father said Alyssa is currently recovering in the hospital’s intensive care unit, where she is heavily sedated as the medical team administers a variety of medications to help her young body accept the new heart.
She will spend the next three to six months in Boston where doctors will monitor her reaction to the new heart and regulate the medications she will take for the rest of her life to keep that new heart pumping and happy.
While she is, family, friends and the greater Madawaska community are keeping tabs on the teenager.
“We are very grateful for all of the support we have gotten,” John Thibodeau said. “We appreciate the monetary support but the emotional support of courageous words and prayers means a great deal.”