Ellie to Celebrate One Year With New Heart
By Ty Walker
Ellie McCloskey is getting to live the life of a kid like she’s never done before. She’s got the heart for it, something you couldn’t say a year ago when she was fighting for her life.
Ellie will be celebrating more than her 12th birthday this November. She’ll also be remembering Nov. 15, the one-year anniversary of receiving her heart transplant.
A donor’s heart has given her a new life. She’s making the most of being a kid for the first time.
Ellie has received a scholarship at da Vinci Arts Middle School in Portland, where she can develop her passion for the arts and dance. The sixth-grader from Wemme was one of 150 students accepted to attend the school this year. She has already been cast in an upcoming school play, Shakespeare’s “Romeo And Juliet.”
Ellie likes to stay active and has many interests. She rides 4-wheelers (quads) on the Winchester Bay sand dunes, enjoys hiking and riding her bike on Mount Hood trails, and loves animals. She collects and breeds rolypollies she finds in the woods. When she grows up, she wants to be a pediatric cardiologist.
The possibilities are limitless. For a girl who once couldn’t climb the stairs without losing her breath, Ellie has come a long way.
“She’s doing fantastic,” her father Brandon McCloskey said. “She’s right as rain. I’m having a hard time keeping up with her.”
Things haven’t been so rosy for much of Ellie’s young life. Five years ago, at age 7, she was diagnosed with a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. In June 2022, she was growing worse, suffering complications from the condition. Doctors determined it was urgent that she receive a heart transplant.
“She had pulmonary hypertension to the point where she couldn’t climb a flight of stairs,” Brandon said. “She would pass out if she walked too fast.”
The family went to Palo Alto, California, in July of last year, to wait for a suitable donor heart, with a similar antibody profile for the operation. Four months later, on Ellie’s birthday, the McCloskeys finally got the long-awaited phone call that there was a donor.
Ellie entered surgery in the early morning Nov. 15 at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford, California, and 14 hours later had successfully received the heart transplant. Her father called them “the longest hours of his life.”
Ellie must take organ rejection medication and be monitored and tested regularly for the rest of her life. Otherwise she can live a healthy, active lifestyle.
“She’s able to live a kid life like she’s never been able before,” Brandon said.
Brandon said since the operation, Ellie has suffered only one setback. When the family returned home from California, she had a reaction to one of her medications that was causing her white blood cell count to drop too low.
The McCloskeys had to go back to Stanford and have her meds adjusted. Her father is happy to report that Ellie fully recovered and was back home in short order.
Donations and insurance paid for Ellie’s heart transplant and related costs, which totaled about $7.5 million, Brandon said. He thanked the community for its ongoing support.
“I would just like to express my incredible gratitude to everybody who helped us through this,” Brandon said. “The community pulled together for us. It’s incredibly humbling the gratitude we have for everyone’s generosity. I don’t even have the words to describe it.”