Kentucky woman, 32, one of longest-surviving, infant heart-transplant recipients

Woman's heart going strong more than 30 years after infant heart transplant surgery
When Leslie Keown was born, doctors discovered the left side of her heart hadn’t formed correctly.
When Leslie Keown was born, doctors discovered the left side of her heart hadn’t formed correctly. (Source: Leslie Keown)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Norton Children's Hospital recently celebrated a milestone with its 75th heart transplant.

A Franklin, Ky., woman was just the second person to receive a heart transplant at the hospital 32 years ago.

When Leslie Keown was born, doctors discovered the left side of her heart hadn’t formed correctly.

“The ninth day, doctors had given us notice that she would never make it through the night,” Keown’s mother, Stacey Keown, said. “At 12 o’clock that night, the transplant, the heart come in and they transplanted her.”

Leslie received the heart of a 9-week-old baby killed in a car accident. As she grew, the heart grew with her. Allowing her to live life and attend prom, high school and college graduations, and teach.

Now, at 32 years old, she is one of, if not the longest-surviving infant heart transplant recipients in the country.

“I would love to meet the family one day,” Leslie Keown said. “Let them listen to the heart beat, listen to their daughter.”

Her annual check-ups show the heart is still strong.

“I know she’s living inside of me every day,” Keown said. “And I think she makes me unique and one of a kind.”

Dozens of heart transplant recipients recently gathered to celebrate a milestone - 75 heart transplants done at Norton Children's Hospital.
Dozens of heart transplant recipients recently gathered to celebrate a milestone - 75 heart transplants done at Norton Children's Hospital. (Source: Norton Children's Hospital)

Unique, because the transplant has surpassed the length of most.

“Around 20 to 22 years is the median or middle survival of infant transplant,” said Dr. Joshua Spark, a pediatric cardiologist at Norton Children’s Hospital. “Her parents had to take really good care of this organ. And her, as an adult, has to take tremendous amount of care of this organ. And I would think a bit of a miracle also put in there.”

Her mother agreed.

“A miracle. She’s a miracle,” Stacey Keown said.

Leslie Keown said she wants to share her story with recipients and others.

“Live happy,” she said. “Love each other. Live life like it’s your last one and love it to the fullest.”

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