Iowa's first pediatric heart transplant recipient celebrates 25 years

Published: October 24 2012 | 5:45 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 2:26 am in
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For Grundy Center native Marissa Getting, 25 is more than a birthday.

Getting, who received a heart transplant at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics at just 7 days old in 1987, was Iowa's first pediatric heart transplant recipient. She was also, to her knowledge, the first American baby to receive the procedure, she said.

And Wednesday, on the 25th anniversary of her first heart transplant, Getting said she feels blessed to be living a normal, healthy life.

"I actually feel very lucky, because it's not something that happens like this very often," Getting said of her transplant surgery. "And for it to last that long, even though I had two transplants, I have a very busy life. I have a normal job and I own a house so I do whatever anyone else would do. Nothing holds me back."

Getting was born with half a heart on Oct. 17, 1987. Shortly thereafter, her parents decided to opt for a heart transplant in hopes of saving her life.

"It was very scary, but it just seemed like the only option we had at the time. She just didn't have any other choices so that's what we went with, and trusted God that we were making the right decision," said Getting's mother, Darlene. "And as it turned out He had everything in his hands and she's done great."

Marissa Getting said her life is a perfect example of how critical organ donation can be to saving lives, adding the process can be healing for both the recipient and the family of the donor.

"(Organ donation) is definitely something I promote," Getting said. "And even though the one family does lose a loved one, if you get the opportunity to meet the donor family, or they want to meet the recipient, it actually creates another bond and a friendship that you would never expect in a million years."

Though Getting later experienced complications with her first transplant, at age 11, when four of her main arteries were blocked as a result of transplant coronary artery disease, she was able to receive a second transplant after waiting approximately one year. UIHC Dr. Douglas Behrendt performed both of her surgeries and since then, Getting said she's led a relatively normal life.

"Really, the only thing we had to watch is that I still can get sick more easily, so that's one of the things we really had to watch," Getting said. "Otherwise I did anything any other kid did, amusement parks swimming, school concerts — I did everything, my parents didn't limit me."

Getting said her family gets together with her donor family at least once a year.

And after a check-up last week, she said she's still healthy, with her second heart free of blockages.

Now, Getting has two jobs, owns a house, and even has the time to entertain her two-year-old poodle, Tinkerbell while living in Holland, Iowa. Getting and her parents were celebrating the occasion Wednesday evening with a taco dinner.

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