8-year-old heart transplant recipient returns to school after months-long recovery

EAST MEADOW, Long Island -- For most kids, it's time for back to school again, but for one Long Island fourth-grader, it feels more like "back to life" after receiving a heart transplant last Spring.

Bowling Green Elementary in East Meadow gave 8-year-old Mahdi Islam a huge hero's welcome when he returned to his classroom Wednesday.

"I'm 500% happy!" said classmate Jayden Morkunas.

Mahdi had lived his whole life with just one working ventricle in his heart. In 2016, his parents watched him endure six surgeries, while rapidly deteriorating.

"My dad, he's 75 years old, he was always praying, saying, 'God please take me, and give him back good health,'" said mom, Suhenez Islam, choking back tears.

Then in April, their prayers were answered. Mahdi received a heart transplant at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and began a rapid recovery. At school, he said he feels like a new person.

"I can run and I can jump, and I can take a race like everybody," Mahdi said.

Stacey Sager met Madhi on his first day back to school:
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Stacey Sager reports on the young heart transplant recipient returning to school.

His buddies in his class agreed. "He looks fired up, like very much, energized," said friend Logan Morales.

As for the staff at Bowling Green, they couldn't be happier. Doting on him at his arrival, one staff member after another hugging Mahdi, and telling him, "You look so handsome!"

The school staff constantly visited Mahdi while he was in the hospital and FaceTimed with him in class. They also held a fundraiser, which raised $4,000.

"And we all wore superhero shirts, and if you wore a superhero shirt, you had to donate a dollar," said Maria Ciarametaro, the principal at Bowling Green Elementary School.

The students also learned how to tackle some tough questions about health and wellness, facing questions like, "Can this happen to us?" Ciarametaro explained.

Mahdi's mom said she knew her son would be OK when he asked for pizza. His dad, Saidul Islam, an officer with the NYPD, said he can't thank the school enough.

"They were my second family ... Because, I had lost hope," Saidul Islam said.
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