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Release of Likeness

Born with half a heart, little Kaiya is now living life to the fullest thanks to all the generous blood donors who helped save her life.

Born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, little Kaiya came into the world with only half a heart. But she joined a community with more than enough love to make up for what she may not have had at birth.

“Our heart warrior princess is living today thanks to everyone who rallied to support us and give so generously of their time and energy and, most especially, the life-saving blood Kaiya needed to survive,” grateful mom Jilanne Traynor says.

Kaiya’s very rare congenital heart defect meant that the left side of her heart was critically underdeveloped, unable to effectively pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of her body. Without immediate intervention, babies born with this complex condition can go into shock and die. A regimented schedule of three different surgeries, performed over the first two years of life, is routine to help restore heart function in anticipation of what ultimately will be a heart transplant. For Kaiya, however, two years was too long to wait. Time was of the essence.

During the first seven months of her young life, Kaiya endured four open-heart surgeries, three additional surgical procedures, countless IV and lab draws, and multiple blood transfusions. Shortly after her fourth open-heart surgery she went into heart failure, and the need for a new heart became clear. The month that followed was long and agonizing as Kaiya’s family waited to receive news that a new heart was found. Seconds felt like hours. Hours felt like days. Finally, just one week past her seven-month birthday, Kaiya received her “angel heart”.

“Kaiya was a bit of a bleeder,” Jilanne recalls. “She often struggled during and after her surgeries and ended up receiving so much blood I really couldn’t count. But I do remember once watching blood flow into her little body and thinking, ‘Wow, we sure owe a lot of blood!’ And even though we know we can never give back as much as we owe, we can sure try!”

And give back Jilanne, her family and friends do. The Traynors began hosting annual blood drives on Kaiya’s first birthday to help give back the gift of life. “So many people have touched our lives as we’ve traveled along this journey, including Kaiya herself and all of the new heart friends we’ve met,” Jilanne says. “They all keep us motivated to keep giving blood because you really never know when somebody you love will be in need of the precious gift of blood. Blood donors saved our daughter’s life more than once! Now, we want to pay it forward.”

Find out more about how you can help save the lives of infants, children, and adults through blood donation. Learn more at About Blood.