or her 3-month birthday, little Eleanor Westenhofer received
the second best present she had ever received: She was
able to go home from the hospital for the very first time since
she was born. Her first few months of life were spent at
Kosair Children’s Hospital fighting to stay alive until she
could receive the ultimate gift – a heart transplant.
However, her serious heart condition would require immediate
action as soon as she was born.
A pediatric cardiovascular team of surgeons and doctors at
Kosair Children’s Hospital monitored Eleanor’s condition and
evaluated treatment options. She was born Oct. 12, 2010, at 38
weeks via cesarean section. Immediately after her birth, doctors
determined that the defect
was too severe to be repaired
surgically. A heart transplant
would be the only option to
save her life.
According to Erle Austin,
M.D., chief of cardiovascular
surgery at Kosair Children’s
Hospital and professor of
surgery at the University of Louisville School of Medicine’s
Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, fewer
than 1 percent of babies are born with a heart defect, and the
majority of those defects can be repaired with surgery.
“We were prepared to take her into surgery and repair
her heart within minutes of her birth,” Dr. Austin said. “But
in Eleanor’s case, the best option for a long and healthy life
beyond a year or two was a heart transplant.”
Kosair Children’s Hospital performs, on average, three to six
heart transplants a year. Baby Eleanor was put on a waiting list
for a donor heart similar in size, blood type and age as hers.
Then the wait began. That time span, which took exactly two
months, was filled with mixed emotions, sorrow and hope for
Lindsey and Damon.
“The thought of a new baby’s life ending before it had hardly
begun was heartbreaking enough, and knowing how close we
were to losing our baby only magnified that heartache for us,”
Lindsey said. “We will forever be grateful to the donor family
for their brave and generous gift of life that was made possible
for our Eleanor.”
On Dec. 22, 2010, Eleanor received her new heart. Today,
she is thriving and growing at home, and her parents delight
in watching her change a little bit every day. While she may
have to be a little more careful in terms of being exposed to
germs and will need to adhere to a schedule of medication and
follow-up appointments with her team of cardiac specialists,
she otherwise is expected to live a healthy and normal life.
Lindsey and Damon keep a blog of Eleanor’s progress, latest
photos and news at www.ihearteleanor.com. And, if Eleanor’s
beating the odds and fight for life so far are any indication, her
future will be as bright and strong as her brave, new heart.
Dean Lavenson Photo
Baby braveheart
Eleanor was diagnosed with a severe and life-threatening
heart defect when her mother, Lyndsey, was 25 weeks’
pregnant. Her condition was later diagnosed as critical aortic
stenosis, a condition that occurs when the heart’s aortic valve
is severely narrowed, preventing proper blood flow to the
rest of the body. Much of Eleanor’s heart was not
functioning. It is estimated that the severity of
her heart defect occurs in approximately six
out of every 1,000 babies born. The option
to treat Eleanor’s tiny grape-sized heart
with surgery while she was still in the
womb was just too risky.
Lindsey and her husband, Damon,
not unlike any other expectant
parents faced with daunting news
of their unborn child’s critical
diagnosis, were devastated at the
possibility of losing their baby
girl but made up their minds
to remain positive. The couple
immediately began to lean on
family and friends for supportive
thoughts and prayers.
“It’s hard to even think about the
emotions we felt after they told us it wasn’t
likely Eleanor would even survive to birth.
But we had to be strong for her, and
strong for each other – really there was
no other option,” Damon said. “We
made the decision to have faith that
she would not only make it, but
live as normal a life as possible.”
Eleanor inherited her parents’
courage and continued to fight
despite the overwhelming odds
that her heart would continue
to function. Weekly ultrasounds
showed that everything else
was progressing as expected.
Lindsey and Damon Westenhofer
with baby Eleanor
Kosair Children’s Hospital welcomes
three new pediatric cardiologists
Brian Holland, M.D., Ryan Leahy, M.D., and Mary
Matta, M.D., recently joined Pediatric Cardiology
Associates, the faculty of the University of Louisville
School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, Division
of Pediatric Cardiology, as well as the medical staff
of the Congenital Heart Center at Kosair Children’s
Dr. Holland earned his medical
degree from the Medical College
of Georgia School of Medicine
and completed his pediatrics
internship and residency at Tripler
Brian Holland, M.D.
Hawaii. Dr. Holland then completed
a pediatric cardiology fellowship at New York
Presbyterian Hospital. He was a major in the U.S. Army
Medical Corps, earning a bronze star and the Resident
Teaching Award in Pediatrics.
Dr. Leahy graduated from
Wright State University School
of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio, and
completed an internship and
residency in pediatrics at Children’s
Ryan Leahy, M.D.
Heart care services offered at Kosair Children’s
Hospital are made possible with support from the
Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit
TheCongenitalHeartCenter.com or call (502) 629-8060.
Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Ill.
Following completion of a pediatric
cardiology fellowship at Children’s Memorial Hospital,
Dr. Leahy received advanced training in pediatric
interventional cardiology at Cincinnati Children’s
Hospital. He recently graduated from the University of
Cincinnati with a Master of Science degree in clinical
Dr. Matta graduated with a
Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor
of Surgery degree from Guntur
–Michelle Robey
How you can help
Army Medical Center in Honolulu,
Medical College in Guntur, Andhra
Pradesh, India. She completed a
Mary Matta, M.D.
pediatric residency and pediatric
cardiology fellowship at Advocate
Hope Children’s Hospital, Advocate Christ Medical
Center, Oak Lawn, Ill.