Breaking News
More () »

Two boys, two hearts, one miraculous day: How Cleveland Clinic Children's made history

On November 13, 2021, Cleveland Clinic Children's performed two pediatric heart transplants

CLEVELAND — When 22-month-old Mikey Collins smiles, it's the sweetest gift in the world. That's because, by all accounts, it's incredible he's here today.

"When I was pregnant, they had found that something was wrong," said Mikey's mom, Rachel.

Mikey was diagnosed with hypoplastic right heart syndrome (HRHS) and tricuspid atresia.

Rachel felt powerless against what she couldn't fix in her unborn son.

"I felt like a time bomb because my blood, oxygenated blood was keeping him alive and well, and I knew that once I had him, he would have to fight for himself," she said.

He did fight. On April 5, 2021, he was born. Rachel thought he'd have a few fixes to his heart and be able to move on. But just a week and a half after his birth, he contracted necrotizing enterocolitis.

"He got a disease that kills most babies that get it," Rachel said.

Mikey would have five surgeries and lost a third of his bowel. The trauma took a major toll on his already weak heart.

"He was very sick. He cried a lot. He was inconsolable. And as a mom, that's what we do. We console, we nurture, we love. And I was just shedding tears. And I remember going online and, please forgive me for what I'm about to say, I'm about to say what people think, but I started to look at baby caskets and how much do funerals cost for babies? Because I don't know that he's gonna make it," Rachel remembered.

He needed a new heart to survive, but his family had no idea, another little boy did, too.

In July 2021, Felicia Culp says her 9-year-old son Evan started vomiting after every meal. A pediatrician thought it was gastritis. But, Felcia's motherly instincts took over.

"It was completely out of left field. There was no indication that he had any kind of major illness," Felicia said. "I just had a weird feeling, so I took him to the emergency room anyways."

Her decision saved Evan's life. 

"They told me his heart was enlarged, his liver was enlarged, his gallbladder wall was thickening," Felicia said.

Soon after he was admitted to the hospital, Evan was diagnosed with ventricular noncompaction cardiomyopathy (LVNC), or end stage heart failure.

"I mean, again, he's nine years old and according to what I've heard from all these doctors, he's been completely healthy. So to go from that to dying is like, 'How did this happen?'" Felicia told us.

Evan and Mikey were in need of a big miracle. Little did they know, one was right around the corner.

At Cleveland Clinic Chidlren's director of pediatric transplants, Gerard Boyle, and his team, were hard at work trying to make it happen.

"(Evan's health care team) said, 'Listen, we're family now. We wanna see him graduate high school. We wanna see him get married," Felicia remembered.

Two families waiting on a miracle. Then, the miracle showed up.

On November 13, 2021. Not one, but two hearts became available for the boys on the very same day. 

"We do transplants here quite often. We've been doing it for a very long time, but never two at the same time," said Dr. Boyle.

History made with two pediatric heart transplants happening simultaneously.

"It was electric. The, the people, the teams down called in the middle of the night, not on call. It didn't matter. It was just, uh, it was very exciting time for us all," Dr. Boyle remembered.

The boys made it through surgery, forever bonding their families who met in the waiting room during the most challenging time of their lives.

"It's an amazing experience to be able to say that our kids, we were there together when they got their second chance at life," Felicia said.

They'll always honor their donor families.

"In spite of their just heartache, and the utter loss that they felt in that moment, They gave him life and loved on him so greatly," Rachel said.

They'll never forget the dedicated health heroes who saved their boys.

"Dr. Boyle's, my hero," Rachel said. "Bringing in all these volunteers that were not supposed to be working on a Saturday. That they were able to just kind of drop what they were doing and say, 'Yeah, I'm coming in and making history and change our family's trajectory in life forever."

Both Evan and Mikey will have to monitor their conditions for the rest of their lives. But, their families say, they are progressing very well.

Editor's Note: The following video is from a previous, unrelated report.


Before You Leave, Check This Out