DALLAS – More than a month after getting a new heart, Olivia Solis, daughter of Dallas ISD Trustee Miguel Solis, is passing milestones and building strength.
“The current research suggests she could have a life up to 30 years before we’ve got to do something else,” Solis explained. “If she could make it past the first month without rejection that was huge. That was a couple days ago. If she can make it past three months, that’s another big hurdle. If she can make it past a year, that’s extremely important.”
Two weeks ago, the little girl got to leave the only place she had ever known – the third-floor cardiac ICU at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. “She was born with a congenital heart defect called aortic valve stenosis,” Solis added.
It’s something a sonogram didn’t detect and doctors could not repair. Exactly three months after she was born, Olivia underwent a transplant and a new heart began to beat inside her chest.
Now, a month later at home, in a crib parked against a large window, it is hard to tell just how much Olivia has survived.
“Yeah, she looks like every other four-month-old,” said Jacqueline Nortman, Olivia’s mother, who is also a pediatrician.
One difference is the regimen of medication Olivia must take daily. “We have to give her medicine basically almost every hour of the day,” said Miguel. In all, she gets 39-doses of medicine a day.
“’Tacro’ is an anti-rejection medicine,” he continued. “Of all the medicines, that’s probably the most important medicine, to make sure her heart is not rejected by her body.”
Olivia’s journey has also changed Miguel’s priorities. “I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that prior to this I had a whole set of goals that may at this point be very different and in some cases goals that are not going to be fulfilled. But that’s ok because ambition and motivation for titles and these things you start to realize what’s important when life hits, you like life hit me four months ago,” Miguel explained.
One short-term goal is a children’s book. “So, the book is called Olivia’s New Heart,” said Skyler Thiot, a Dallas-based designer.
Olivia’s story inspired Thiot, who volunteered to illustrate the book to explain organ transplants to little ones.
“I can’t bake people cakes – things that other people can do – but I can design things,” Thiot said when asked why he volunteered to help.
“As much as we thought our story was unique, today at Children’s Medical Center there are 40 families and 40 kids who are going through a tremendous set of experiences. Some will make it out with their life and others will have another day. We wanted to raise awareness about what happens there,” said Solis.
On their iPhones, Solis and Nortman have hundreds of images of Olivia’s tumultuous young life. Among them, two shots of strength stand out; raising a fist after her first open heart surgery and perhaps the most moving – despite so many obstacles – a little girl managing a big smile.
It’s proof of a vibrant personality that mom and dad are eager to see grow.