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People Top 5
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- December 03, 1984
- Vol. 22
- No. 23
Baby Fae: A Child Loved and Lost
Her Controversial Transplant Gained The Attention Of Animal Rights Groups and Medical Ethicists. Her Parents Tell Their Story And Hers.
But within four days, as the pediatrician predicted, her color yellowed and her breathing became more difficult. It was just at this time that doctors from the Loma Linda University Medical Center called with the suggestion that she might be saved by a transplant of a baboon's heart. Her parents, reunited by the crisis, agreed, and on Oct. 26, Dr. Leonard Bailey, a pediatric cardiac surgeon, inserted the walnut-size heart of a 7-month-old baboon into the infant's chest. The operation proved immensely controversial, sparking demonstrations by outraged animal lovers and vehement attacks by medical ethicists. Yet, when Baby Fae's picture was televised around the world, her plight touched people everywhere. A fragile being with a surgical tape running the length of her upper torso, she seemed to grab greedily for a chance at even the most difficult of lives.
And then, 21 days after her historic operation, Baby Fae succumbed to the odds and died. In this exclusive report, her parents recount their story—and hers. I know it sounds strange, but it's hard for me to believe she's dead. Just yesterday she was alive, and even knowing she's gone and after all we went through, it still makes me happy to think about her.
Howard: When I met Teresa, she was flagging for the asphalt company I was hauling asphalt for—her and two other girls on opposite ends of this long work site directing traffic through one lane of a two-lane highway—and one day I stopped and, I think, offered her a Pepsi or something like that, because I had a big 18-wheeler, you know, all air-conditioned inside, and I asked her if she wanted a Pepsi because it was awful hot out there in Allen, Kansas and I felt sorry for her. At first, since she was wearing a helmet and jacket, I didn't notice she was a girl, but later when I realized, I thought, "Wow, that's some girl." She'd just had her 19th birthday, I remember, and she was quite a girl.
T: I thought he was my dream man: good build, head on his shoulders, intelligent, you know? And I didn't have a boyfriend at that time.
H: I was just getting over being divorced. I'd been split up with my wife for about three months then, and she'd taken our three daughters back to Kansas City, and I didn't like being a bachelor. I was anxious to find somebody to keep me company and she looked like she'd fit the bill real good.
T: I was living with my mother at that time. I'd been on my own but moved back in with her just until I found a job, which I'd done.
H: One of the first things I did with her was to help her move her things out of her mother's house. My wife had said I might as well stay in the house where we'd all lived, but that was probably temporary. I decided to go ahead and get together with Teresa, and we got us a place in Allen. Those were good times, those early days. Before Beau was born—he's 2½ now—we weren't apart five minutes in a day. Just lived in that truck, all winter long.
T: Crawl into the back to get a little, uh, privacy.
H: We thought about getting married a few times. She'd never been married before and probably wasn't thinking in that direction. She's not somebody to take to somebody real fast or trust them too soon. A person has to kind of prove themselves to her. So she was in no hurry. Myself, I had just got out of a relationship and wasn't ready to jump into any big commitment, so, you know....
T: A lot of people, if they get married, for some reason....
H: We seen it with our friends. I got friends that lived together nine years, raised three kids, up and got married and then got divorced six months later. It's ridiculous. That little piece of paper and that little commitment just does something to people's minds. After Beau was born, I felt like I should probably do right and marry her, but we started having a few arguments here and there, so I would kind of use that as an excuse, you know, "If you're going to start pulling these cartoons, I ain't getting married." And she'd be saying the same thing, you know, "You think I'd marry anybody that's so ornery?" We had no real serious arguments, no more than anybody, and we been together all the time up to the time she was pregnant with Fae. Then we were just fighting tooth and nail.
T: Fae wasn't planned. I'm not very fertile, and I'd gone without birth control pills for months before, and this time I'd run out of them and it just happened. I felt I was ready for another child. Beau was old enough, getting out of diapers, and I kind of wanted another boy for him to play with. Yet I wanted a girl too, for the kinds of things you can share with a daughter.
H: We weren't fighting because she was pregnant, you understand. I was happy about that. I remember we were fighting when I found out about it because she wrote me a note that said something like, "If you could find some time for me, I have something I need to tell you." And I thought right then, "Ooh, boy." There was no problem about having the baby though. We had all kinds of boys' names picked out, just in case it was another boy. I was thinking it would be neat to have two sons. We were going to name him Cody Allen—Cody because I liked the name and Allen because that's where we met.
T: We were arguing because I thought he was away from home too much. I felt I needed more of him. And then, too, I was pregnant, and you know how women are when they're pregnant.
H: I'd go down to the local beer joint and drink with the boys, you know. And I will admit it, I never claimed to be no angel. And I'd stay out late and sometimes not come home, maybe all night. A lot of times I'd do it just because I knew it'd make her mad—figuring I'm already in trouble—what the hell, you know, a couple more hours. And, of course, she's tremendously jealous and suspicious, just like I am. But the more she'd get on me, the more belligerent I'd get.
T: Especially being pregnant, very fat and unattractive. I could have handled it a lot better if I hadn't been pregnant.
H: So finally she just brought out my stuff to where I was and said, "Okay, if you want to live out here, live out here."
T: I got a girlfriend to help me carry out his clothes and stuff and I put them in an unused car near the driveway and just left them for him.
H: I could tell she was mad then. I wasn't about to see her right off after that. I had to give her some time to cool off.
T: We had some small conversations, but we couldn't seem to agree on anything. He'd come over to see Beau and take him for a walk, but we weren't really talking much. Being pregnant, I didn't think I could talk about it very sensibly.
H: And then the next thing I knew, here's this friend of mine, this guy Henry, in my house, practically living there all the time. I was at his house when she brought my clothes over. And here he is staying in my house.
T: They made it out like there was some romance or something, but there wasn't. A girlfriend of mine was staying with me, and I got the impression he was interested in her. That was why he hung around. And I needed someone then, and he did a lot for me. He'd clean up the dog pen, you know, and clean up the yard, in return for meals and a place to stay.
H: He was living with his mother and brother, and I think he was trying to get out from under Mama. But I don't like a man being in my house when I'm not there. I didn't figure there was anything romantic going on, because he knew he'd have to deal with me in the long run, and I know he wouldn't want to do that. But I resented him being there, and I sure wasn't going to move back in with that going on. You'd have to beg me to get me back there. So we was just kind of butting heads and then, it wasn't a week later, she had the baby.
T: I woke up about 3 in the morning, and about 3:30 I tried to wake up Henry to drive me to the hospital because the contractions were getting real strong. I called the girlfriend who'd been staying with me before to come and sit with Beau, and she came right over. The drive to Barstow Memorial Hospital was only about 10 minutes, but by the time I got there the contractions were only about two minutes apart.
H: For Beau's birth we'd gone through Lamaze classes together, and I really felt privileged to be there for the birth of a new person. I was proud as proud, boy. And I really resented not being there for Fae. Evidently they didn't know how to get ahold of me.
T: There wasn't much time.
H: Yeah, well, I realize that. This Henry was supposed to try to contact me, and told Teresa he did. But actually I didn't hear she'd given birth for three days. I was getting some lunch up at a market near here, and Henry and his brother happen to drive in and say, "Hey, your wife had the baby. It's a little girl." I thought that was good for her. I thought she needed a girl. I thought that, ornery as she is, she'd probably have at least one more boy in there, but it was a girl, and that was cool. They said, "Well, her heart's a little weak and she's having some trouble breathing, but she'll probably be okay." I figured since she was a little premature, two and a half weeks or so, she probably might have some trouble breathing and that everything would be okay. I still didn't go see Teresa because I felt she still couldn't talk to me respectfully, like an adult. I thought I'd just wait till she calmed down.
And then a couple of days later I see Henry's at my door and the first words out of his mouth is, "Your daughter's dying." That's exactly what he says. I come to the door, I say, "Hey, Henry," and he says, "Your daughter's dying." I couldn't believe it. I said, "What are you talking about?" And he says, "Man, your daughter's dying!"
Teresa: She was just a beautiful baby—blue eyes, brown hair. We named her Stephanie Fae—Stephanie for Stefanie Powers, who I think is so beautiful, and Fae is my middle name and also my mother's and grandmother's. You look at the baby pictures of her and Beau and they're just the spitting image of one another. She sure came out faster than Beau. That was a 12-hour labor, and with Fae I delivered less than three hours after I walked into the hospital. I had to have shots for Beau despite the Lamaze classes, but I didn't have any with Fae, partly because she was a little premature. She came flying out and the doctor caught her like a football 'cause I was pushing so hard.
The doctor put her on my stomach just for a minute, while he clamped the cord and cut it off, and then they put her on this square little bed where they cleaned her up a little and wrapped her in blankets to keep her warm. Then they were getting ready to take her out, and I said, "Wait, can I just see her one more time before you take her away?" So the nurse brought her over, and I was touching her, and then they said they had to take her.
It was dawn when I got to my room, and I was still awake about an hour and a half later when the doctor came in and told me she was having trouble breathing, maybe having some congestion due to the fact that she was premature, and that she might have a heart murmur. He really didn't lead me to think it was something serious, but I was very worried about it.
I went to see her in the nursery later—it was a nursery especially for premature babies, extra warm and with extra oxygen—and they had moved in an X-ray machine. There were little holes in the plastic case around her, and I put my hands in there and touched her hands and rubbed her body a little bit, and then they told me I'd been standing long enough and they didn't like people in there when they were doing an X ray.
After the X ray I don't think they were sure what was wrong exactly, and they told me they wanted to transfer Fae from Barstow to Loma Linda because they had specialists there. I said all right, and they transferred her late that afternoon, the same day she was born.
They released me from Barstow the next afternoon so I could go and see her at Loma Linda, and I had Henry come and pick me up. I still didn't think anything really bad was the matter with her—anything fatal, I mean—and Henry and I went out and bought about a hundred dollars worth of clothes for her.
We were told to go to the natal intensive care unit, and when we got there a nurse asked me if I'd like to hold her. I said, "Oh, you don't know how much." I just sat in a rocking chair holding her for about 10 minutes, until the doctor asked me to go to a conference room so we could speak privately.
The first thing he said was "Why don't you sit down." Then he asked me how I felt about Fae. I was thinking in medical terms, so I said, "She looks okay on the outside. It's her insides I'm worried about." I don't remember exactly what he said after that, but I remember three things: He said that she had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, he said she was dying and he said there was nothing they could do for her. [Sobbing] I didn't believe him. I thought they had misdiagnosed it. "Are you sure?" I asked him. "There's nothing that can be done, with all the new medical technology?" He said no. He said I could leave her there until she died or take her home with me.
I wanted to take her with me and spend as much time with her as I could, but I was afraid to take her to my house because...
H: We would have to live there later.
T: Well, I just had to go outside when he told me that. I was crying a lot, and I didn't want anybody to see me, and I had to think things through. I walked outside and leaned against a railing and just went into space. Then I went back in and told him I wanted to take her with me. He gave me the number of a coroner to call in Barstow when I needed one. He thought she might live up to two weeks, but he didn't expect her to last more than a day.
I don't know how I managed to get her dressed and bundled up, but I did. Henry drove us back to Barstow. In the car on the way, she had, you know, a kind of "sense" to her that something was wrong, but she seemed fine. She was breathing fine.
I checked us into a motel very early Tuesday morning. I just thought that her spirit would remain in the house. I didn't think I could bear that.
H: We'd never leave the house—that's probably what would happen. Instead of wanting to leave, we'd probably never want to leave her there.
T: She seemed so regular in so many ways. Like I remember Beau crying a lot. He was colicky I think, and I'd pace the floors with him at night because he didn't sleep very much at all. Fae, she slept real good, and she'd only cry when she was hungry or her diapers were full, and she ate real well. By the end of that week she was up to 65 milliliters of the Similac the hospital gave me—little tiny bottles, 45 milliliters each. There wasn't a hot plate in the motel room, so I'd heat the Similac up in hot water in this little coffee pot thing attached to the wall. Then the second day we were there my milk started running, and I used the breast pump the hospital had given me to fill bottles with mother's milk and she really took to that.
That morning I asked Henry to go find Howard.
H: That was the time he came and told me Fae was dying, and we tore over there.
T: Before he got there my girlfriend, who'd been sitting for Beau, brought him over. I said, "Remember when Mommy used to say there was a little baby in there?" patting my stomach. "Well, there she is!" And he just grinned, a quiet little grin, like he does, and he wanted to hold her, have Sissy all to himself, and I let him, but I supported her head. And about that time Howard arrived.
H: And so she introduces me to Fae and says, "You know, she's dyin'." And I just looked at her, and my first words, I swear, were "Jesus, she looks sick." Then I held her, and we had a few tears flowing there.
T: That was the day she smiled for the first time. I wrote it down in my baby book. And she kept smiling right to the day she died. I'd go in there to talk to her, and she'd be resting real good, and I'd say, "Hi, sweetheart, Mama's here," and she'd float her eyes around a little bit and give me this big grin.
She found her hand that day too. She was lying on the bed and looking at her hand, and I put a piece of bright material right up to her face. I wanted to see if she was alert, and she was looking at it, and I took her hand with mine and put it up next to the material, and she grabbed that material. She just seemed really intelligent, a really special baby.
We wanted to take her to church that night so the priest could say some words for her, and for us, but it was a cold, windy night, really raw, so we didn't. I was raised a Catholic and Howard was raised a Methodist. We are not churchgoing people, but we believe in God. I didn't even bathe her while we were there because I was afraid she'd catch a chill. I'd just take a warm wash cloth and mop her off now and then.
I've never been through a night like that one. I guess not many people have. I felt hurt and helpless, and I was weak still from giving birth. I didn't get but maybe two hours sleep. I just prayed all night to the Lord to keep her alive, to take whatever He needed from me to keep her alive, because I would just have given my life for her to live.
The next day, on October 17, we decided that we'd take her home.
H: We figured that was our home, and if she was going to die, by rights she ought to die at home.
T: I was also beginning to think they were wrong, that she wasn't going to die after all. She was so cute, so smart. I just started pushing it out of my head that she was going to die.
H: I stayed on at my own place. There were still other people in my house, still people invading my privacy, was how I thought about it. She had made it pretty clear that I could come anytime, see the baby, but I was pretty shook up by the whole thing. Four children prior to that, but I was in no way prepared for this. My kids mean more to me than anything, but, I don't know, maybe I was afraid to get to know her because she was going to be gone. You know, taken right back away. I was probably feeling sorry for myself more than anything.
T: You have to understand, he lost his parents at a very young age—his mother died when he was 8. He told me once he was afraid if Fae died he just couldn't stand it, living without her.
It was windy and cold that day when we took her home. I remember Beau wanting to play trucks with her. "C'mon, Sis, you want to play truck?" he said. She was sitting in a carrier on the couch, and I had to tell him, you know, you gotta be careful with the baby, you can't put that big truck up by her face.
Thursday night, the 18th, I noticed her getting a little yellowish in the face, and then it spread down to her body. I thought it was probably jaundice but I wasn't sure. The next morning I called the doctor, and he said the best thing was to lay her in front of a window in the sunlight. I told him how great she'd been doing, sleeping and eating regular, and he said he was surprised she was still alive.
I asked him if there were any signs of her starting to die. He told me she might just go to sleep and not wake up, and he said just by looking you might start to see a little grayish color. I just said, "Ok, thank you," and hung up, and then I looked around at her and saw a grayish tint starting around her eyes and on her upper lip, and her fingernails and toenails had turned a little blue, and I knew I had to face the fact that she was dying.
My mother had flown on Thursday, and I took Fae with me to pick her up at the airport. Mom couldn't see that she looked a little gray and I guess I got impatient. "She is, Mom. Can't you see?"
Most of those days I spent just holding her, trying to make up for all the time I'd be without her. I just spent all the time I could holding her, and I think that's what's brought her and me so close.
It was Friday afternoon when Fae's pediatrician at Loma Linda called and mentioned a Dr. Bailey, who had just come back and specialized in transplants. He said something about the possibility of transplanting a baboon heart in Fae. I was, of course, surprised like anyone would be—I'd never heard of anything like that. I said I'd have to talk to Fae's father. He said if I was interested I'd have to bring the baby back to the hospital for them to keep her alive, since she could die at any time—any minute, any hour. He said Dr. Bailey would talk to us as soon as we could bring Fae to the hospital, and as soon as I could talk to Fae's father I called back the pediatrician and said yes, we were interested.
H: We weighed all the pros and cons back and forth and just figured that if we didn't try—this or some other procedure—we would always wonder if we had given our best shot at giving her life.
T: It was a chance to save her life.
Teresa: Friday, the 19th, the day the pediatrician called, I had made an appointment with an acquaintance of mine who knew something about "the laying on of hands," a kind of faith healing. She was to come over early that evening, and I figured I could take Fae down to Loma Linda after that.
First she asked me if I ever heard anyone speak in tongues and I said no. It is a prayer to the Lord in a different way, she said, and she told me not to be frightened by it. First she used an oil and placed a cross on the baby's and my forehead. Then she laid her hands on Fae's chest and stomach area and prayed in the English language and then in tongues, and the baby's whole body shook. I opened my eyes to see if I could see what I felt, because I had my hands around Fae's head and I felt a very strong presence. I had never experienced anything like that in my life, and I may not ever experience that again. I put my trust in God that night, that He would do whatever was best for her, that He would give me and Fae the strength to carry through all this. This ceremony lasted 15, maybe 20 minutes, and it was beautiful. After we stood up, I had this feeling of relief. All I knew of this woman was that she had prayed for a friend's premature baby who was given virtually no chance to live. Yet that baby is still alive.
Right after that, we took Fae down to Loma Linda—me, Henry and my mother. Right away we took Fae to the unit where she would spend her time before and after surgery. She was in that same unit until she died.
That was a long night. Dr. Leonard Bailey sat us down in a conference room and started to explain our options to us. At one point he left for about five minutes to get some materials to show us. He told us there were no guarantees that she would survive, no matter what we did. Then he told us all the possibilities.
He explained the Norwood operation, said we could take Fae to Philadelphia right away for that. As he explained it, that is a two-stage surgical procedure, which involves rerouting of blood through the heart so that the right ventricle takes over the pumping function normally performed by the left ventricle. Since I thought it was only temporary, I did not consider it. He showed me slides that showed me exactly what went on in this operation.
I asked him about a human heart transplant. He said it was very rare for a human heart of such a young age to be available at just the right time, whereas baboons were plentiful and they could do all these tests for compatibility and find one that was a really good match.
I asked about an artificial heart, and he said that the baby grows at such a fast rate that there would have to be all these operations to change the size of the heart through her young years, if she was going to survive.
At some point he showed us a lot of slides of a heart transplant operation he had performed between a sheep and a goat. I didn't want to watch it, but I thought, no matter what, I was going to watch it, for the welfare of our child, you know? I wanted to make sure I would do the right thing. And he gave us some pamphlets, a few of them hadn't even been published yet, on these experimental operations. They were scientific papers, hard to understand, but I read them all and that was a great help.
When the pediatrician first mentioned the idea of the baboon transplant on the phone, everybody was just silent, thinking it over. Now I just wanted to hear what Dr. Bailey had to say. We talked about the side effects of cyclosporine-A, the drug he said he would use to stop her from rejecting the baboon's heart, and he said that this drug had only recently become widely available and that it might cause kidney failure. He repeated that there was no guarantee of anything at this point.
He explained everything that night. It was near dawn—5 a.m. or so—when we finished talking. He asked me if I needed time to think about all of this and I said yes, I wanted to talk it over with my mother and Howard. But I did give permission, not in writing but verbally to start blood tests.
On the drive back to Barstow everyone was real quiet, and I was just thinking about Fae's life. This operation Dr. Bailey was talking about had never really succeeded. But here was this chance for her to live. And I thought about the other babies that might get a chance to live with this operation. They say that one baby out of 12,000 is afflicted with the same kind of hypoplastic left heart syndrome my Fae was born with. I had never even heard of it before. It seemed like most of them didn't have any chance at all. Also, I started feeling good about it because of Dr. Bailey being directly to the point, confident, compassionate. And seven years of research behind him.
I had spoken to Howard Friday night before we went down there and explained what was going on as well as I could then, about the idea of a baboon heart transplant and all, and his only reaction was that he was real happy about it, that he was all for anything that might save her life. He also said that apes are the closest species to man, something he had learned in school. He didn't show any surprise really, he was just anxious to save her life.
H: I would have been there at that meeting with Dr. Bailey if I'd known it was going to turn into a seven-hour discussion. We knew it was important that she got up there to the hospital and got on life support systems so she wouldn't just pass on. But when it came time to sign the agreements about the surgery I was up there. They gave us all kinds of chances to back out of the whole thing—we could have stopped it right up to the time she was in surgery—but I can tell you I never once considered that.
T: That Saturday morning, when we got home from the meeting with Dr. Bailey, I just went to bed. I slept a long time—I must have turned the alarm clock off in my sleep. I couldn't have got more than two hours sleep any night that week. That afternoon the hospital called and told me Fae had stopped breathing. They said it was nothing extreme, that they could get her back, but they said she wasn't feeding very well and they thought I ought to come down on Sunday and try to feed her.
They were trying to get ahold of me while I was on my way because she had taken another spell and stopped breathing again and this time it was a little harder to get her to come around. They had to intubate her, which means to put her on a respirator, which meant they couldn't feed her with bottles, only intravenously.
She seemed healthier when I saw her. It was comforting to have that tube down her throat for her breath. That was how it seemed to me. Every day she was at Loma Linda she looked better to me, because they were getting rid of her jaundice, and with the extra oxygen, I think that's what made her grayness go away, though I don't really know.
I saw Dr. Bailey again that Sunday—I saw him just about every time I went down there. He still didn't have our approval for the transplant operation, but I know he had an immunology specialist fly in from New York, Dr. Sandra Nehlsen-Cannarella, who he must have called after that all-night meeting—and they were working on their compatibility studies with Fae and six baboons.
It was when I was there on Wednesday that he told me they'd got the six baboons down to two. He explained to me how everybody has two different sets of genes in them. Fae had one set from me and one from her father, and it turns out we gave Fae our best genes in terms of compatibility. And Dr. Bailey thought it was pretty amazing how close the baboons were to her genes. After that they had one more test to see which of the two baboons was closest to Fae.
We were supposed to meet at the hospital Wednesday night to sign the first consent form. They wanted us to sign two of them, the second more than six hours after the first one, before the operation. I waited for Howard to get there but he didn't show up, so I drove back up to Barstow to find him and it turned out that his truck had broke down, so I drove us both to Loma Linda. Then after we signed—it was just me, Howard, the doctor, the attorney and two witnesses in the room—I drove him back again so he could go to work early the next morning.
That was a lot of driving during that week, and a lot of gasoline expenses. Dr. Bailey had told me the hospital would pick up the expenses of Fae's medical care, but in a way I like to think the Lord picked up the tab for gasoline. See, not too long before Fae was born I got a pre-approved application for a Visa card in the mail. Where it came from I can't tell you. I wasn't on welfare then—I didn't go on welfare until Howard and I split up—but it was the only thing that saved me. I just had to think it was God's wish, or why would these things be happening to me? I mean why would they send me a pre-approved Visa card application? The only thing I can think of is, I was sending in to a lot of sweepstakes back then.
The social workers helped me too. They offered me therapy to deal, you know, with all the pressures, but mainly they were just friendly people to talk to, have a cup of coffee with sometimes. I didn't really feel I needed that much help. I don't know. Maybe one of these days I'll just break, you know? Probably not, though. When you've had a rough life, it's either get tough or die.
The social workers did get me a place to stay near the hospital, and I started staying there on Thursday, the night before the surgery. We were right there, up the street from the visitors' center where the press conferences were held and we could see all the picketers, the TV crews and the whole mob of reporters who were trying to find us. I could only chuckle at how close we were.
When we signed the second consent form, we had a little baptism service for Fae right in her room using sterilized water. The priest said a prayer and made the sign of the cross on her forehead with the water. And that was it. It only took a few minutes. Afterward I went back to this small apartment they had found for me near the hospital and set my alarm for 4 a.m.
I was up and showered and at the hospital that morning by 5, and for the hour and a half until they took Fae into surgery I just held her. By the time they came to get her my arms had fallen asleep, but I wanted to give her all the strength to pull through this operation because I knew she was weak. I found out later she had almost died the night before. They hadn't called me because they were busy working on Fae, and that is just what they should have been doing. They told me that all through the night she didn't sleep very well, like she knew that she was going to be having this surgery. They rolled her down to the operating room with me walking beside her.
After they wheeled her out I went to the chapel and stayed there with the chaplain during the operation, and we prayed for her. I can't remember what religion he was but I remember I called him "Father" and he asked me if I would call him "Chaplain" instead because he wasn't Catholic. And I remember looking up at a stained-glass window in there, where Jesus was holding a little lamb and there was the lamb's mother looking up at them, and I guess I felt like that. Later, I waited in the lobby. There was a telephone there where we could call into the operating room and find out how things were going. We must have called four times while Fae was in there.
Then finally, about 11:40, we got right through to the surgical nurse, who told us Fae's new heart was beating on its own. And right after that we said a prayer thanking God, because I felt that if God hadn't wanted this to happen she would never have made it through surgery. I'm not religious and never have been, but I believe that in all this I got a little help, you know?
We were in the chaplain's office when Howard called in, asking how it all turned out. It was about 2 p.m. when he figured the operation would have to be over. See, I feel he was afraid to be right there, in case she would have died. I know he loved Fae. I just have no doubt of that.
I didn't see Dr. Bailey for several hours yet. He was with Fae all that time, taking care of her, making sure everything was taken care of, written down and doing what had to be done. That's the most important thing, you know? A lot of people don't feel that way—they want to know what's going on right there and then, they want to speak to that doctor right away. Well, I'm not like that. If he's taking care of her, well, that's the main thing.
It was about 5 or 5:30 when I met Dr. Bailey in the conference room. He said, "Your baby is doing well. We have to take it hour by hour. Everything went so well it worries me." He smiled when he said it.
You know, after that morning, our daughter Fae suddenly became this famous little girl, and all the demonstrators started in about the baboon heart, and how awful it was to sacrifice this animal for a scientific experiment, and was it right for a human being to have an animal heart. Well, I'll tell you this—if there had been a human heart available and I had a choice of that or a baboon heart, I would have chosen the heart that was the most compatible with her, whatever one it was. There are a lot of sentimental ways of talking about the heart but it's just a pump. The soul is not in the heart. The soul of a human is in the brain.
I really slept that night, knowing that my baby had come through the surgery. The nurses seemed amazed at how I was going through this so well. Like I said, the Lord helped me with my prayers. And I never had any doubt that we had done the right thing. How can it be wrong to try to save a little girl's life?
- Eleanor Hoover.
September 28, 2016
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