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Health

Catonsville child awaits heart after transplant falls through

Five-year-old Teresa Bartlinski was lying unconscious shortly after 3 a.m. Friday at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia when the doctor told her parents they had called off the heart transplant she was prepped to receive.

The girl — whose Catonsville family enlisted their church, community and global supporters to join them in praying for a miracle healing — remains a top candidate for a heart donation, but this midnight drive from Maryland had been a disappointment.

Dr. Joseph Rossano, medical director for heart transplantation at the Pennsylvania hospital, told Teresa's parents, Ed and Ann Bartlinski, that the heart, which came from a child who had died, appeared in an ultrasound to be healthy enough. At the last minute, a surgeon who examined the organ found it was not a good match for Teresa.

"Thank you for being so cautious," Ann Bartlinski told Rossano. "We don't want to take that chance. Our miracle will happen, just not today."

The family is praying for the intercession of the late Pope John Paul II to miraculously heal Teresa's lungs, significantly damaged by a birth defect that caused her heart not to grow properly.

The Bartlinskis, who adopted the girl from China, said they were told by several doctors and hospitals that Teresa's condition was too advanced for successful medical intervention and she was too weak to receive a simultaneous heart and lung transplant.

If she survives a heart transplant and her lungs heal, her parents said, they will petition the Roman Catholic Church to declare her lungs healed by the hand of God.

The family's church, St. Mark in Baltimore County, and its affiliated school have prayed for the late pope to intervene on Teresa's behalf for more than two years. The Bartlinskis hope their daughter's potential healing can be considered a miracle by the Vatican to declare John Paul II a saint.

They spread the word about Teresa's situation on the blog, Our Placed Called Home, that's received nearly 280,000 page views from people around the world.

In addition to Teresa, Ed and Ann Bartlinski have adopted four special-needs daughters from China. They have four biological children.

They arrived at the Children's Hospital about 12:30 a.m. Friday and Teresa underwent a medical procedure, called plasmapheresis, to remove the plasma in her blood along with antibodies that could have fought the heart transplant.

At 3 a.m. the heart transplant was still on, but the situation changed in a matter of minutes after Rossano received the call from the surgeon who examined the heart.

"I wish we could do this today, but it's not the right time," Rossano told the couple.

Rossano said he did not know whether another patient could receive the heart. The identity and location of the donor is confidential.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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