Heart Ball Princess Celebrates the Miracle Of a Heart Transplant
Omaha, Neb - A series of miracles; that's how some describe Petra Marcos' recovery from a critical heart infection. Its started with what the 16-year-old from Lexington, Neb thought was a bad cold after a vacation in May.
"I got sick when I was gone, but didn't think it was anything bad - just a cold," said Petra, a high school junior. "But I kept getting worse."
She was still coughing months later. Her symptoms got so bad she ended up in her local hospital emergency room. Things moved very quickly from that point forward.
"They put me in an ambulance to Kearney," she remembered. "When I got there, the doctors realized I had to go to Omaha. A helicopter took me to Children's."
Petra was quickly transferred to Children's Hospital & Medical Center where pediatric cardiologists confirmed she was suffering from acute myocarditis, a dangerous inflammation of the heart.
"One of the frightening aspects of acute myocarditis is that it appears to be a normal illness. You feel progressively tired, and you gradually develop shortness of breath and a cough. Before her hospitalization, Petra could no longer sleep lying down," explained Jeff Delaney, MD, pediatric cardiologist and director of the hybrid pediatric heart catheterization lab at Children's Hospital & Medical Center. "Unfortunately, her condition continued to worsen and even with careful monitoring and medication, Petra was losing heart function and her heart wasn't beating properly."
Just a teenager, Petra heard some very grown-up news. She needed a heart transplant very soon.
Adding to the complexity of the situation were Petra's past travels to her native Guatemala. Doctors needed to make sure that the inflammation in her heart wasn't caused by unusual bacteria that could potentially kill her if she were to suppress her immune system by taking anti-rejection medications after transplant.
Infectious disease specialists ruled out that possibility, and the day the heart team received word that Petra could be listed for transplant, she quickly had a match.
"I was only on the transplant list for six hours," recalled Petra.
Petra was rushed to The Nebraska Medical Center for her transplant surgery.
"She would have died very soon without the transplant," said Ioana Dumitru, MD, heart failure specialist at The Nebraska Medical Center. "She did not have much time."
"About 90 percent of children with acute myocarditis will get better and not need a transplant," said James Hammel, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon at Children's and The Nebraska Medical Center. "It's great knowing Petra can go on with her life. I am proud to be part of the system that cared for her and could offer this life saving option."
Marcos could tell a difference as soon as she woke up from the operation.
"I felt better right away," she said. "A little sore from the surgery, but I could definitely tell a difference."
Now, Petra Marcos is doing more to make a difference for others. She will be honored as the Children's Hospital & Medical Center's Heart Princess at the upcoming Omaha Heart Ball.
"I'm really excited," Marcos said of the ball. The black-tie event is a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. In the last two decades, the American Heart Association has funded nearly $15 million in local heart research. The event is sponsored by The Nebraska Medical Center and UNMC Physicians.
Organizers believe Petra Marcos is the perfect example of why the Omaha Heart Ball is so important.
"Petra's courage is an inspiration for all of us," said Tina Foehlinger, Director of the Omaha Heart Ball. "She shows us what great things can happen when research, technology and skilled doctors and nurses come together with a courageous patient."
Back in school now in Lexington, Petra is doing her best to get back to normal. But her amazing story is still the topic of many conversations.
"My friends see it as a miracle. Some even say I got smarter after the transplant," Petra joked.
There is also serious talk about transplantation among Petra and her friends. She heard several of her friends say, "I'd like to be a donor" because of Petra's miraculous recovery.
"Petra's story should be a reason for people to talk about organ donation," commented Dr. Dumitru. "She is alive today because someone else made the decision to be a donor."
The Omaha Heart Ball is Sat., Feb. 7 at the Embassy Suites - La Vista Conference Center. Petra will be available for interviews from 6 - 7 p.m. She will be honored during dinner and the program which begin at 7:30 p.m.
To learn more about the Omaha Heart Ball and other local American Heart Association events, visit www.heart.org/omaha.Back to Top