Baylee Carper

January 26, 2023

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Donor heart, living donor kidney save sick child’s life

When Baylee Carper was born on April 5, 2012, she seemed to be a perfectly healthy baby girl. Until she wasn’t.

By 5 months old, Baylee started sleeping more than normal and she didn’t want to drink her bottle. The pediatrician said she was simply teething. Back at home, Baylee started turning blue, so her mother, Rebekah Maldonado, rushed her to the hospital. Because of a cold Baylee had gotten a few weeks earlier, the doctors believed the virus had attacked her heart, causing heart failure. They transferred her to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. 

“As soon as we got there, the doctors told me, ‘She is very sick and her heart is enlarged. The only hope is a transplant,'” Rebekah said. “At the time, I never gave organ donation a second thought, I knew nothing about it. Now it is my world and the reason she is here.”

During her time at the hospital waiting for a transplant, Baylee was so sick that nothing the doctors did seemed to be working.

“She couldn’t even eat without her heart rate going above 200, she was so frail,” Rebekah said. “I was scared every single day that I was going to lose my baby and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Then, one night, a nurse came in and handed Rebekah the phone. They had found Baylee a heart!

“I immediately started crying,” Rebekah said. “I felt so many emotions that day. I felt relieved and happy, but also sad because I knew some other parents out there just lost their child.”

The next day, Baylee got her heart, and it was a perfect fit. Two days later, she was smiling, had her color back and seemed like herself again. She was in the hospital for about two more months, and then went home in time for Christmas that year.

“Baylee has had so many memories because of the gift this family has chosen to give to my daughter,” Rebekah said. “She joined sports, she made friends, she enjoys birthday after birthday. None of which would even be possible if someone didn’t make that hard choice that day.”

When Baylee was 3 years old, she and Rebekah met her donor family, and they’re still in touch today. Rebekah considers them to be like family now. 

“I am just forever grateful they could make such a choice at literally the hardest time of their lives,” Rebekah said.

By age 10, Baylee was so full of life and has been able to accomplish so much. Unfortunately, due to another virus secretly attacking her kidneys, Baylee also needed a kidney. After finding out she was a match, Rebekah donated a kidney to save her daughter this past November. 

“My baby is here because of organ donation,” she said. “Organ donation is vital and sometimes when you aren”t in that world or in that bubble, you can’t see that.”