Just 6 Days Old, Baby Oliver Gets a Heart Transplant


Photo Courtesy of Caylyn Otto

Imagine sitting next to the phone, noting every tick of the clock, on pins and needles waiting to hear whether your newborn will get a new heart in time. That’s what Caylyn Otto and her husband Christopher Crawford went through just last month, before getting the life-changing news that a heart had been found for their six-day-old preemie Oliver — and that doctors would be putting it into his body that very night. 

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“You’re watching your child take every breath, waiting, waiting,” the Mesa, Arizona mom, 25, tells Yahoo Parenting of her son, born Jan. 5, reportedly the youngest heart transplant patient in the nation. “It’s such a heartbreaking thing to do. We were going crazy praying, but also just so thankful to be able to spend this time with our son.” 

Photo Courtesy of Caylyn Otto 

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The boy – whom they nicknamed Oliver Hope, short for “all of our hope,” dad Chris Crawford tells the Arizona Republic – after all, wasn’t even supposed to make it through delivery. “We didn’t think we’d even get to see him alive,” says the mom, who also has a 19-month-old son, Christopher. 

Oliver was diagnosed with a heart condition when Otto was 20 weeks pregnant and given a 58 percent chance or survival or not requiring a transplant. But to have the best chance of being considered for a new heart, he would have to make it to 36 weeks. Yet Otto began having contractions at just 33 weeks and went to the hospital. 

“Right before Oliver was born, doctors came in and said that his vitals had dropped significantly and that they wanted to do an ultrasound to see what he was doing. One told me, ‘I’m not seeing many signs of life.’ His vitals were so low, they said, ‘He’s kind of going out.’” The doctors wanted to induce Otto. “I said, No,’” she recalls. “’You told me he won’t survive natural birth, so I’m waiting to 36 weeks. I’m not going to kill him. He’s still alive to us.” 

Photo Courtesy of Caylyn Otto 

When her contractions started up a few hours later, the professionals couldn’t stop them, though. “They were saying, ‘We’ll let hospice know you’re in active labor,” says the mom, who had earlier refused to even look at the hospice room in refusal to consider that her baby would end up there. “Then when Oliver came out, we heard a little squeak. Doctors rushed him off to the NICU and he started fighting.” 

Little Oliver hasn’t stopped fighting since. Four days after he was born, he was placed at the top of the national transplant waiting list, due to his size, and two days after that, a heart became available. Ten hours of surgery at Phoenix Children’s Hospital followed and on Jan. 5 Oliver was successfully given a new heart, making him the youngest ever heart transplant patient at the hospital, where they reportedly believe he’s actually the youngest in the nation. “He’s absolutely a miracle baby,” says mom. Oliver’s doctor, pediatric cardiologist Christopher Lindblade, agrees. “I do feel there was something miraculous that happened with this child,” he says, adding that recalling the moments of Oliver’s transplant “still kind of gives me chills.” 

Today the tot is thriving. “It’s easy to forget he’s STILL not even supposed to be born yet,” Otto brags on Facebook. “He looks amazing!” The results of a recent biopsy show zero signs of him rejecting the heart, says Otto, who’s looking forward to taking him home at some point in the near future. 

Until then they’re just preparing for what comes next, including all those hospital bills. “He’ll be on medication for the rest of his life,” explains Otto, who went back to work as a dental assistant just two weeks after Oliver was born because, as she says, “the bills don’t stop.” She and her husband, who works at a pizza shop, have set up a fundraising page with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. In hopes of getting some help with the transplant-related expenses they estimate will add up to about 60,000.00. 

Photo Courtesy of Caylyn Otto 

“Doctors expect Oliver to live a long time,” says Otto. “He’ll be able to play sports have normal life. He will be more delicate than others, and have more doctor appointments, but everyone has high hopes for his future for sure.” 

Mom, for her part, never had any doubt. “I’ve always said, even when I knew how bad it looked, I was never meant to lose him,” she says. “And Oliver has been so amazing, we’re just so honored to be his parents. We just want to give him the best life ever — the one he’s fought for.” 

Photo Courtesy of Caylyn Otto 

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