A heart-felt gift of life: Iowa teen receives Christmas Eve transplant

Local News

Part of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics campus, with the Stead Family Children’s Hospital in the foreground, on August 11, 2018. (Ryan Jaster, HawkeyeHQ.com)

The day before Christmas Eve, 18-year-old Brooklyn Soroka of Norwalk, Iowa, was at work when she received a phone call letting her know she would receive the ultimate Christmas gift: a new heart.

At midnight on Christmas Eve, her transplant was completed successfully, a news release says. According to Dr. Aditya Badheka on the pediatric intensive care team at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Soroka is recovering well and doctors are optimistic about the long-term success of the transplant.

Soroka was put on the transplant list in February 2020 after doctors at University of Iowa Health Care noticed her heart conditions were progressing. She has mixed cardiomyopathies – a relatively rare combination of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and restrictive cardiomyopathy.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy thickens the heart muscle, making it harder to pump blood and causing rhythm problems, said Dr. Rabia Khan, a cardiologist on Brooklyn’s pediatric heart transplant team. It is best known for being the cause of sudden death cases in basketball players on the court.

In addition to Soroka’s risk for sudden death from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, she also has restrictive cardiomyopathy, which makes it difficult for the heart to relax and causes pressures to build up inside the heart very high.

Even though restrictive cardiomyopathy makes up only 2-5% of all cardiomyopathy cases, the diagnosis is behind 10-20% of all heart transplant cases because of its high mortality rate: 50% in two years, and 70% in five years. The combination of the two cardiomyopathies put her at greater risk for sudden death.

Soroka originally learned about her heart conditions when she was in junior high school. She had to give up dancing and other physical activities she loved and adhere to strict activity limitations.

Her mother Dana recalls when the family went on a trip to Jamaica and her daughter was so disappointed she could not visit a waterfall because the hike would be too risky for her heart condition.

Now, Soroka is excited at the potential for her new heart to allow her to resume many of the activities her friends and other people her age enjoy and often taken take for granted.

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