Organizations: Enduring Hearts

During a trip to Disney World, 15-month-old Mya Gahan became sick and struggled to breathe. Tests revealed that her heart was enlarged. She managed for two years on medication, but when her heart began to fail again she spent six months in the hospital awaiting a heart transplant.

A donor was found, and today Mya is a robust, energetic 6 year old who does gymnastics. Her battle, though, is not over. She likely will need another transplant in a few years.

“Most people think that once a transplant is successful, the patient is out of the woods for good,” says Ankur Chatterjee, president and executive director of Enduring Hearts, a Marietta-based nonprofit started in 2013 by Mya’s parents, Patrick and Madelyn Gahan. “For pediatric patients, one in four needs another transplant within five years and then likely will require still another a few years later. So the lifespan of a pediatric transplant recipient is more compromised than that of an adult recipient.”

The Gahans started their organization with the mission of fostering awareness of the special needs of pediatric heart transplant patients and raising funds for research to enhance the longevity and quality of life for kids like Mya.

With a staff of three and support from donations and fundraisers, Enduring Hearts so far has donated $1.7 million to research at institutions such as Emory, Duke and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The long-term goal is to build up the endowment to $100 million, making up to $10 million of grants every year, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that the next transplant lasts for a normal lifespan.

“One transplant is hard enough for a child to undergo,” Chatterjee says. “Imagine realizing that your child might have to go through it three times.”

If Enduring Hearts has anything to do with it, one day children won’t need to.

Categories: Organizations