Kiarra Dixon was just six months old when she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Those were big words — and a big diagnosis — for such a little girl. "It took me years to learn how to say that," Kiarra, now a seventh-grader at Lincoln Park Middle School in Duluth, Minnesota, recently told FOX 21-News. The condition, which affects the heart's ability to pump blood, can eventually lead to heart failure.
For years, Kiarra's condition was managed with medication, and she "lived a relatively normal life," according to WDAZ News. But that changed in 2015, when Kiarra's condition worsened and her name was added to the list of those waiting for a heart transplant at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. Doctors told Kiarra's family "she was at risk for 'sudden death,'" so she had an internal defibrillator implanted in her chest to restore her heartbeat if need be. Kiarra also began wearing a backpack that "held a pump full of medicine" that was continuously pumped into her heart. At school, a team of classmates and teachers were trained to help out in case of an emergency. The multistep plan included CPR and a scripted 911 call. "It was a village effort," one of Kiarra's teachers told WDAZ.
In May 2016, Kiarra's condition worsened again. Her name was moved onto a high-priority list of patients awaiting transplant. And four months later, the family received a call. A heart was available, and they'd need to be in Rochester within four hours to prepare for surgery. Read the rest of Kiarra's story.
This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.