2016 Transplant Games Athlete — Hailey Steimel

Hailey Steimel Transplant GamesHeart Recipient Pursues Career in Health Care

Hailey Steimel of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a vibrant 19 year old with a never-give-up personality and a passion for helping others.

That's because when Hailey was born, she was the one needing medical help. Doctors discovered that Hailey had a congenital heart defect called transposition of the great arteries (TGA).

In patients with TGA, the two main arteries, the pulmonary artery and the aorta, are switched, or "transposed." As a result, there is not enough oxygen in the blood. In the United States, about five out of every 10,000 babies are born with TGA every year.

During Hailey's first few weeks of life, she underwent heart surgery since severe cases of TGA can be fatal.

At age 14, however, Hailey began having serious heart-related issues.

Finding New Solutions

Erik Edens, MD, PhD, director of the Pediatric Heart Transplant Program at University of Iowa Children's Hospital, says Hailey was very sick when she arrived years after her initial heart surgery.

"Hailey had the type of heart surgery that can lead to heart failure in some patients, and unfortunately Hailey had that happen," Edens says.

Hailey needed continuous heart failure medication and IV infusions to keep her heart functioning properly.

Joseph Turek, MD, PhD, a UI Children's Hospital pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, says they knew Hailey eventually would need a new heart. When a new heart was not available in a timely fashion, however, they had to do something else.

"We put a pump in the right side of Hailey's heart to stabilize its function," Turek says.

Hailey was the first child in the country to have an implanted pump, known as a ventricular assist device (VAD), placed in the right side of the heart for the type of heart failure she had.

After Hailey's assist device was placed, she was able to return home and live a fairly normal life while she waited for her donor heart.

A True Valentine's Day Celebration

Hailey was on the heart transplant list for six months. On Feb. 13, 2014, she received the phone call she had been waiting for: A donor heart was available, and she would have her heart transplant the next day—Valentine's Day.

Hailey's transplant has given her a second chance at life and the ability to follow her dream of helping others. She is currently enrolled in community college and is leaning toward a career in medical social work.

Laura Felderman, RN, BSN, CCTC, pediatric heart transplant coordinator at UI Children's Hospital, was there for Hailey and her family from the very beginning. Hailey even refers to Laura as her "hospital mom."

Laura says Hailey has turned her medical illness into a very positive experience.

Continuing to Give Without Missing a Beat

"Hailey has helped other patients, is involved with Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Iowa Donor Network in order to reach out and help as many people as possible," Laura says.

This year, Hailey participated in the 2016 Transplant Games, held June 10-15 in Cleveland, Ohio. Hailey competed in track and volleyball, and was excited to meet others who have had a transplant and hear their stories.

To learn more about UI Children's Hospital transplant services, visit https://uichildrens.org/medical-services/transplant today.