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Portland infant gets a new heart

Sarah Droubay leaves the hospital just two weeks after surgery

The wait took four agonizing months, but 8-month-old Sarah Riley Droubay finally has a new heart. And she's out of the hospital.

Sarah, daughter of Angela and David Droubay of Southwest Portland, was released Friday from Loma Linda University Children's Hospital in Loma Linda, Calif., just two weeks after receiving her new heart during a 3 1/2-hour transplant.

Sarah 'can sit up on her own for several minutes now, and her cheeks are always rosy,' Angela Droubay said last week from Loma Linda shortly before Sarah was released. 'She just looks beautiful.'

The critically ill baby received a donor heart Nov. 14. The transplant was performed by Dr. Leonard Bailey, who in 1985 became the first to do an infant heart transplant at Loma Linda.

Sarah was transferred to Loma Linda on July 26 from Legacy Emanuel Children's Hospital in Portland, where she had been diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that weakens the heart's ability to pump blood. Doctors said she could not survive without a transplant.

'We are so grateful to the family who made the decision to donate their child's organs,' Angela Droubay said. 'It takes a special ability to remove yourself from the terrible pain and grief and make a decision to help another family.'

A feeding tube and intravenous medications kept Sarah stable during her wait. She is learning to eat solid food and needs physical therapy to gain body strength. She will take anti-rejection drugs the rest of her life.

Sarah and her mother will be in Loma Linda at least four months, seeing doctors three times a week, David Droubay said Monday. They are staying in a duplex provided by Ronald McDonald House near the hospital.

David Droubay and the Droubays' 11-year-old son Dillon spent last weekend in Loma Linda 'being together as a family again,' David said. The two will be in Portland until school vacation, then return to Loma Linda for the Christmas holidays.

For now, privacy rules prevent the Droubays from knowing the identity of the donor family. They may someday communicate through the United Network for Organ Sharing, which matches donors and recipients.

Sarah's parents are now passionate advocates of organ donation, Angela Droubay said. During Sarah's wait, five children at Loma Linda died while waiting for transplants.

LaVena Secrest of the Oregon Donor Program in Portland hopes Sarah's story will inspire others to talk about becoming organ donors.