By Dean Stephens
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- She is your typical little girl. Princesses, tiaras, everything pink and an endless bounty of energy. But a month before her third birthday, everything changed.
Morgan Porter's life in Beaufort became a fight for life in Charleston.
"We don't know how much she gets because she is three and half, but she's very observant, very intelligent and very in tune," said Morgan's father, Robbie Porter.
One month before Morgan's third birthday, her parents say she came down with something.
"She was fine. We got home, and she started to throw up. We thought it must be the flu," said Sarah Porter, Morgan's mother.
Morgan's Beaufort pediatrician sent her to MUSC Children's Hospital for more tests. The results were life-changing.
"We got into pediatric cardiology. They did an ECHO of her heart, which is basically a sonogram of her heart. Nothing was said, but based on body language from doctors and technicians, we knew something wasn't quite right," Robbie said.
Dr. Minoo Kavarana is one of Morgan's heart doctors. He says her heart failure was quiet and sudden.
"Morgan came in late July with severe heart failure that came on quiet suddenly. She was in very poor condition and probably would make it only a few hours," Kavarana said.
On August 4, Morgan became just the third child at MUSC Children's Hospital to ever receive the Berlin Heart. Tubes were attached to Morgan's chest. The machine did what Morgan's heart could not, pump blood throughout her tiny body.
Where Morgan went, so did the Berlin Heart. So did her pink crocs, tip-toeing through another day.
The machine creates a constant buzz. It was a constant reminder, Sarah said, of how fragile life can be.
"You see people getting worked up over the little things at the grocery store, on the cell phone, and I say if you only knew how precious life is," Sarah said as she wiped away tears.
Sarah makes sure Morgan's life is as normal as possible. Princesses decorated her hospital room, from pillows, to posters, to sweatshirts and stickers.
A volunteer came in weekly to help with Morgan's school work, and Scamp the therapy dog dropped by for a visit.
"We've got a system here," Sarah said. "Wonderful nurses and doctors and the whole staff at MUSC, they have been family."
Dr. Kavarana put in the Berlin Heart and performed Morgan's heart transplant. Robbie and Sarah received the call on Tuesday, January 24 that a match had been found.
A team of MUSC doctors flew to the donor site and returned four hours later with Morgan's new heart. It was packed in ice and protected by several plastic bags, secured in a small container. A culture was taken of the heart to make sure there was no infection.
The heart was then placed on Morgan's chest. Dr. Kavarana knew he had four to six hours to get that heart beating again.
"Once the heart is outside of the body at the donor site, you want to make sure things are moving swiftly and fast enough to get the heart in and start beating within four hours," Dr. Kavarana explained.
It was three in the morning when Morgan's new heart was sewn into her chest. It's faint beat signaled new life. The concept of loss of life to save a life was not lost on Morgan's parents.
All the while, Robbie and Sarah waited nearby in a waiting room.
"It's hard to put into words just what the sense was, but the sense of calm touches on it. We knew the day would come, and it finally came and we knew that we were in the best hands that we could be," Robbie said.
"There is sadness for the other family, grateful also because they decided to donate. There is a combination of a lot of emotion, the nervousness, the excitement," Robbie and Sarah shared.
Ten hours after the procedure began, Morgan was moved into a new room. Her first week of recovery captured in pictures show the increasing strength of a little girl, the faith of a family and the miracle of transplant.