Heartbreak to Hope: One Family Shares the Power of Organ Donation

Baby Eila's parents faced the worst news. Then came a second chance.

By Missy Robertson, publisher of Macaroni Kid Monroe - West Monroe, La. April 9, 2024

My son had reached the moment when you can't breathe because helplessness strangles you. He was overwhelmed by the news that his 4-and-a-half-month-old daughter, Eila, was not a candidate for a heart transplant. Her care team told my son and his wife there was nothing more they could do. Take her home, they said. Get hospice care. 

Morgan struggled to breathe as he told me this. He was inconsolable. It's hard to describe the pain that rushes over you when you realize you are helpless. As a mom, I always had the answers — the problem-solver of the family. Nothing I had faced was too big. But this? This was it — the thing that was too big, that I couldn't fix.

'She will make it through this'

The 1,500-mile flight from our home in Monroe, La., to the hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, seemed like a million miles. I prayed I could take their pain, but there was nothing I could do. I kept seeing her smiling face, those plump cheeks that I never got to kiss because of her fragile state (Eila was born in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic).

I have always been close to my son, Morgan. He's a musician, producer, and sound engineer who then lived in Wyoming. I'll never forget the joy I heard in his voice the day he called me to tell me "Mom, Caiya, and I are having a baby!" 

Later in the pregnancy, during a routine prenatal check-up, they found out they were having a little girl. But that wasn't all — She had a congenital heart defect. 

"I have no fear," my son told me. "I know, without a doubt, that she will make it through this and so will we." 

He was so sure. The call left me with peace and confidence.

The worst news ... then a second chance

Every telephone conversation had the same positive outlook and even when Eila was born with more medical complications than expected, her parents' belief in her never wavered. Caiya embraced every challenge with grace, even when Eila was rushed into surgery at six days old to repair one of the holes in her heart. The emergency surgery was needed to reduce blood flow so that she could live and further develop in preparation for the next series of operations. 

The surgery went well, and shortly after Morgan, Caiya, and Eila entered into rigorous routines with continual medical appointments and therapists.

But then the news from the specialty hospital in Utah. There was no more hope. Nothing more that could be done.

But Morgan and Caiya weren't ready to give up on their baby girl. The day after that devastating call, while we were on that endless drive to their side, my phone rang again.

"Mom, we are getting Eila's medical portfolio and we are sending it to every hospital that will accept it in hopes of getting a second opinion," my son told me.

April is National Donate Life Month

There are 103,223 men, women, and children on the national transplant waiting list right now.
Find out more now about becoming an organ donor.

Just a few days later, word came from Children's Hospital in Denver, Colorado, that they believed Eila was a candidate for a heart transplant. Immediately, the hospital sent a helicopter to Utah to transport Caiya and Eila to Denver, while Morgan returned to Wyoming to pack up. They were all together again in just a few days, and within two weeks they got word that a heart had been donated. 

It was a perfect match for Eila. 

Even in their grief, another family gave Eila a chance at life

I have never cried so much. First, there were happy tears that Eila was getting a heart. But, on the flip side, came the pain of knowing that another family's worst fear had just come true. Their baby had died. 

Even in their grief, this family made a decision that made a profound impact on our lives. 

They chose to give Eila life.

On December 5th, 2023, Eila celebrated her 3-year transplant birthday. She is doing so well, and we are sharing her story so that people understand the importance of organ donation and the impact organ donation can make.

Find out more now about becoming an organ donor.

Missy Robertson and her husband Rickey Robertson, publish Macaroni KID Monroe - West Monroe, La.