Baby Fintan recovering from heart surgery

January 18, 2008 3:59:00 PM PST
Fintan Schiltz had a heart transplant the day after Christmas. His family prayed on Christmas day that the 4-month-old would get a new heart.

Fintan's family talked about his recovery Friday.

The baby's doctors say they are pleased with his progress. Fintan is still on a ventilator, but doctors say he should be taken off of it in another week.

The Schiltz family says waiting for Finn's heart, and watching him recover from his surgery, has been a roller-coaster ride that has brought the family closer together.

"His story is one of faith and hope and family," said the boy's father, Mark Schiltz.

Those three things sustained the entire Schiltz family in the weeks leading up to, and immediately after, Fintan's heart transplant. Parents Mark and Gina, joined by their four other children, talked to reporters Friday at Children's Memorial Hospital.

Fintan has spent nearly his all of his 4-month-old life there because, shortly after his birth in September, doctors discovered a defect in his heart.

Mark Schiltz says Fintan's diagnosis came as a tremendous shock.

"Our first four kids, as you can see, they're the picture of health. They rarely get sick," said Mark Schiltz.

Doctors operated on Finn, but what he needed was a new heart.

"I'm not a medical person. I hear heart transplant, and my heart starts beating pretty fast," the father said.

The family spent a longer-than-average 11 weeks on a donor list. They were still waiting Christmas day when Francis Cardinal George prayed with them for a new heart. Later that night, they found out a heart was available, which brought on a whole new host of emotions.

"To hand your child over to somebody else to try to fix him," Mark Schiltz said.

Fintan pulled through the surgery and spent a few days on a heart and lung machine. Doctors say they are encouraged that he gets better every day.

"We've been able to come down from most blood pressure medicines, the things that are supporting his new heart, and his new heart is looking very good," said Dr. Jeffrey Gossett of Children's Memorial Hospital.

Finn's family says they've learned a lot from him during this process.

"Real sweet. Very sweet personality. And, he will be a happy guy if he can be happy through this," said Gina Schiltz, the baby's mother.

While the Schiltz family is grateful for Fintan's new heart, they realize another family suffered a great loss. Finn's parents say they hope to thank the family one day for donating the heart that has saved their baby's life.

Fintan's parents hope to take him home in about a month.