Transplant at Age 12
In April 2008, Lauren Shields experienced unexplained fatigue. After more symptoms appeared, she was diagnosed with Viral Myopathy, an enlarged heart and ultimately, Cardiomyopathy. She needed a new heart. On February 3, 2009, Lauren’s name was added to the organ transplant list.
At Lauren’s side during much of her six-week wait were her mom, Jeanne; dad, David; brother, Brandon, and their dog, Lei-Lei. With her health declining sharply, Lauren was placed into a medically induced coma. She consistently received blood transfusions.
After weeks of sleeping by her daughter’s side on a makeshift window seat bed, Jeanne called her family with the news: A donor heart was available at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.
Lauren came through her surgery in good shape but remained in the medically induced coma for a while longer. What followed wasn’t easy: she suffered a stroke, underwent kidney dialysis and physical therapy, and used a wheelchair. One of her most joyful moments was when her family and her dog Lei-Lei paid her a surprise visit in the hospital courtyard.
By the time school resumed in September, Lauren walked into her fourth grade classroom. Now she is back to being healthy and active, and she is an outspoken advocate for organ donation. Lauren vows that when she grows up, she plans to become a cardiologist—to help others just like her.
As a result of Lauren’s ordeal and her advocacy, Governor Cuomo has signed “Lauren’s Law”. The new law, which will take effect in one year, will require anyone over the age of 18 getting a new driver’s license to answer whether they would like to join the state’s donor list. The question is currently optional.