Baby born with rare heart defect gets much-needed transplant

A baby who had been on the waitlist for five months got a heart transplant right before turning 8 months old at Phoenix Children's.
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 3:43 AM EDT
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PHOENIX (KPHO/Gray News) - A baby boy from Arizona who had been on the waitlist for a heart transplant for five months received the gift of life right before he turned 8 months old.

When Hunter Cooper turned 8 months old on Monday, he was recovering in the intensive care unit at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. He received a much-needed heart transplant days earlier.

His mother, Amber Cooper, says Hunter has not been home since he was born in September due to hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare, congenital heart defect. An anatomy scan revealed his heart wasn’t developing properly at 20 weeks, according to the family’s fundraising page.

“When I first found out about it, I was completely devastated,” Cooper said. “Pretty much what that is is that on the left side of his heart, it’s not pumping strong enough to pump blood into the aortic valve arch that will pump blood to his brain and his limbs.”

Hunter had multiple surgeries to help his heart pump blood, but he needed to be added to a waitlist for a heart transplant five months ago, his mother says.

“I felt like it was never going to happen. It just took forever,” she told KPHO.

However, before 3 a.m. Saturday, Cooper got a call.

“They’re like, ‘Amber, we have a heart. We’ve already accepted it. We just need your go to do it.’ I said, ’Go ahead and do it. I approve. Do it,’” she said.

Hunter went into surgery around 11 a.m. and wasn’t out of the operating room until after midnight on Sunday, nearly 12 hours later.

It’s a gift of life Hunter’s aunt, Krystal Mann, helped with by joining a charity called Children’s Organ Transplant Association, which helps families with medical costs through fundraising events.

Mann is the “Team Hunter” representative and wears many hats to organize fundraisers for her nephew. The family’s fundraising page can be found on the association’s website.

“They are incredibly helpful and extremely resourceful and an absolute godsend to be a part of everybody’s family. They’re there for you from the start to the end and beyond,” Mann said.

Cooper says Hunter’s transplant was covered by insurance, but the family had to move from Tucson to Scottsdale to make traveling for medical care easier. They also expect Hunter to need medical aftercare for possibly the rest of his life.

The family urges others in a similar situation to reach out to Children’s Organ Transplant Association and to hold on to hope.

“Don’t give up. It will happen. It’s just a matter of when,” Cooper said.

Hunter is expected to go home for the first time in about six weeks.