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To Avery with Love: Part Two

Avery Toole is full of energy. She loves to sing and she loves to draw.

She's a lot like most outgoing six-year-old's, but looks can be deceiving.

"We thought 'oh my gosh' there may be nothing we can do for her," Avery's mother Cheryl Toole said.

In 2004 Mike and Cheryl Toole welcomed Avery into the world, a seven pound, seven ounce seemingly healthy little girl.

"There she was crying and pink and perfect and a head full of hair," Cheryl Toole said.

However, just hours after her arrival doctors noticed something was wrong.

Avery had a heart murmur. She was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. The left side of her heart did not develop completely.
The condition can be fatal and surgery is the only option.

"I knew it was probably one of the worst defects you could have as a child," Cheryl Toole said. "I knew whenever you heard that, the babies never did well."

Avery was taken to Children's Hospital Boston. She underwent open heart surgery at just five days old. It's a complicated surgery, because a newborn's heart is about the size of their fist.

"I was just picturing her not being able to run around, not being able to be a kid," Avery's father Mike Toole said. "That was just the first thing that popped into my mind."

Avery survived the first surgery. She had another at six months and six more operations before turning four and a half. She bounced back from every surgery except the last.

Avery went into the hospital the day before Thanksgiving in 2008, and didn't get out until January.

"It took her a couple of months to recover and even still we took her home very weak, not able to eat a lot had a lot of belly complaints," Cheryl Toole said.

On March 22, 2009 Avery's health took a drastic turn for the worse.

"It just broke my heart," Mike Toole said. "I didn't know what was going on with her. No one seemed to know what was going on with her."

She was rushed to the hospital and went into cardiac arrest.

"They started doing CPR and it was just a nightmare," Cheryl Toole said. "We just sat there watching in complete shock. All I could see was zero on the monitor with no activity at all. Mike was there and he was saying come on, come on. At one point I just yelled at him, because I couldn't take it. It was just awful."

Avery was placed on life support. She needed a new heart to survive.

Dr. Francis Fynn-Thompson is Avery's heart surgeon.

"We had considered a couple of different options, but it was felt that the best way to go forward given her heart disease and what she had done up to that point, and how ill she was when she came in, that in fact a heart transplant was in her best interest," Fynn-Thompson said.

A machine called the Berlin Heart kept Avery's heart pumping for six weeks while she waited for a transplant. On August sixth, Avery's family got the news.

"She was like, 'we found the perfect heart,' and then I stopped talking and tried to wake up and register," Cheryl Toole said.

Avery's transplant surgery was a success.

"She really is a poster child for what we are able to do now, and how heart transplantation can save someone's live, alter someone's life, and give someone a second chance," Fynn-Thompson said.

Avery left the hospital seven months after her heart failed.

"It was just so good to come home and lay with her in her room and think 'oh my God I can't believe like we've gotten another chance,' " Cheryl Toole said.

Avery can now run, jump and play just like the other kids. A few steps used to make her tired.

"It's just great," Cheryl Toole said. "I love the fact that I can say 'Avery wait up' I just never thought I would have to yell that. It's great."

Avery doesn't talk about being sick or her transplant surgery, but she does talk about the boy and his family who gave her life.

Mike and Cheryl knew saving Avery meant another child dying.

"I had this incredible need to reach out to them and to somehow know them," Cheryl Toole said. "So we wrote a letter and mailed it probably a week before Thanksgiving."

A response would soon follow from a family hundreds of miles away. A family in College Station, who had lost their 8-year-old son, Dalton. They decided if they couldn't save him, they would save someone else.

Wednesday night on News 3's 10 at 10, how tragedy brought these two families together. We'll show you the emotional reunion. We were there as the Toole's made their first trip to College Station to reunite with the family who gave their daughter a second chance.


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