MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two sisters say they are grateful for the unique, life-saving bond they share.
Like many sets of siblings, there’s sometimes the quiet one — who is perfectly countered by the wild one. They’re traits Reese Nordling, 13, and Regan Nordling, 9, gladly accept.
“[Regan is] crazy,” Reese said.
Regan looks forward to future YouTube fame. Reese, not so much. The two sisters are proud of their differences, but also one astounding similarity. Both have had heart transplants. Regan has had two.
“It’s never, ever lost on me. I think about it constantly,” mother Nora Nordling said. “Every day that they are good and they’re healthy and that we’re not in the hospital, I am so grateful and thankful.”
Her two daughters were born with dilated cardiomyopathy, meaning their hearts were weaker than normal. Regan’s was so weak, she had her first transplant not long after birth.
Dr. Rebecca Ameduri — medical director for Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant at M Health University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital — has been the Nordling family’s physician since the beginning, about 10 years ago.
“I would say probably less than 5% to 10% of them actually need to go on to heart transplant. Many of them we can manage with medications,” Dr. Ameduri said. “Every challenge that they’ve faced, they just seem to take in stride and see it as one new challenge that they are going to face and move past.”
Regan’s first donated heart started failing a few years ago, leading to her second transplant.
“She did very well throughout her early childhood years, but unfortunately, sometimes those hearts fail over time,” Dr. Ameduri said.
Regan was on the waitlist for about a year, with most of that time spent at the hospital. Nora said it was a miracle her daughter survived the wait.
“She was dying in front of my eyes and I truly thought she wasn’t going to make it to her second transplant,” Nora said.
Reese’s battle with her heart condition worsened last year, causing her to struggle in sports and at school.
“Before the surgery, I was like really crummy and like tired and winded all the time,” Reese said.
Dr. Ameduri recommended she get on the list for a transplant, waiting only 11 days before it was her turn to get on the operating table.
“At first I didn’t want to go because I was scared it was gonna be not so perfect, but I went and it was perfect match,” Reese said.
The lifesaving gift isn’t lost on them. They’ve developed relationships with the families of Regan’s two donors.
“They’re like brothers to me,” Regan said of the siblings of her first donor.
She’s especially grateful for her second donor, a young girl who had a similar outgoing personality and interests.
“That’s why that family’s special to me because it’s like we’re twins,” Regan said.
Reese wrote a letter to her donor’s family expressing gratitude.
“Transplant is the most beautiful thing to ever to have witnessed, and for us to have witnessed it three times is just amazing,” Nora said.
For those just now beginning the same transplant journey, the two sisters have advice.
“Things are gonna get better in the end. You just got to push through life,” Reese said.
“Just be brave, and if you don’t think about it, you won’t worry too much,” Regan said.
Five to 10 heart transplants are typically performed each year at M Health University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. So far in 2020, they have successfully performed six transplants — with five in the month of January alone.