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Baby Rachel Ready to Go Home

May 13, 1986

LOMA LINDA, Calif. (AP) _ A 4-month-old girl is in good condition two weeks after receiving a heart transplant, and probably will go home within a week, according to a spokesman for Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Dr. Leonard Bailey transplanted a tiny heart into the chest of the infant known only as Baby Rachel on April 28. In 1984, Bailey transplanted a baboon’s heart into a girl known as Baby Fae, who died 20 1/2 days later.

Dick Schaefer, a spokesman for the medical center, said Monday that Baby Rachel may be allowed to return home this week.

Meanwhile, her parents disclosed that they initially rejected the idea of transplantation for their daughter, who was born with a terminally defective heart.

″We thought, ’Why get our hopes up and why prolong her agony?‴ Baby Rachel’s mother, Maria, said. She asked that the family’s last name be withheld.

Doctors at St. Bernardine Hospital in San Bernardino brought up the possibility of a transplant, but warned that chances of finding a donor were slim.

Maria, a 28-year-old schoolteacher, and her husband, Michael, a 40-year-old construction worker, decided against trying.

Rachel stayed in the hospital, and ″basically, we waited for her to die,″ Maria told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

But then, the little girl gained strength, and on Jan. 23, Maria and Michael took her home. ″We kept saying to each other, ‘See, she looks good’ and ’She’s not going to die,‴ Maria said.

Again doctors suggested a transplant, and this time the family agreed to put Rachel’s name on state and national lists for donor organs. That began an eight-week wait for donor organs for Rachel and another tiny heart patient who has since died.

On Sunday, Mother’s Day, Maria got to take off the surgical mask she had worn on previous visits to Rachel’s hospital crib and kiss her daughter for the first time.

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