Kamloops teen shares life-saving heart transplant story

By Tanya Cronin
February 18, 2016 - 4:45pm Updated: February 18, 2016 - 7:19pm

KAMLOOPS — Abby Farnsworth has been courageous since the very day she was born.

"Even though I went through it as a baby, I feel pretty normal because I kind of grew up with it," says Abby.

This 14 year old was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a complex and rare congenital heart defect preventing the left side of the heart from effectively pumping blood to the body. At just five weeks old, Abby struggled to gain weight and develop as a healthy baby should. She was airlifted to BC Children's Hospital, underwent two heart surgeries as a newborn, and another before she turned three.

"After the third surgery, a couple months it was working and then I stopped eating and could barely get onto a couch without getting winded, I was really tired."

Further testing showed Abby was in heart failure and needed a transplant - news that left her mother and father in shock, and anxious not knowing when their daughter would get a new heart.

"It was pretty devestating and we went down for some tests and sort of knew something was going on. Within about four or five days we were flying out to Toronto. I zipped home and packed bags for us and drove back to Vancouver, and we flew out the next day," says Kent Farnsworth, Abby's dad.

Three months later, on May 17, 2006, Abby became the recipient of a heart transplant at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. It was just shy of her fifth birthday. The surgery took 12 hours, she spent 32 days in hospital, and nine months away from home.

"She's doing pretty good, her heart's doing good. May 17 will be 10 years that she's had her new heart, so we have an anniversary birthday for Abby's heart on that day," says Farnsworth.

"I can run, and I dance, and I do parkour without getting tired and I can be normal now," says Abby.

Abby does what she can to stay active. Her new heart has won her medals in three Transplant Games, and she makes it a priority to be an advocate for organ donation. 

"I go to some places to give speeches, just so I can inform people that heart and any other organs, donating is really important, it can save a life," says Abby.  

"Knowing there are other people out there who are willing to donate part of their child to save other kids or other people, it's pretty awesome," says Kent Farnsworth.

There are still tests, checkups, and a lifetime of medications, and Abby might one day need another heart transplant. She doesn't know whose heart beats inside of her, but the 14 year old Brock Middle School student is aware it's a precious gift, that she's been given.

"It makes me feel so grateful because I know I have a second chance at life," says Abby.


Heart & Stroke Month focus on heart failure