Happy birthday to my heart

heart transplant recipient erin

In the foyer of the Geraghty house in Bedford, New Hampshire, 20 red heart-shaped balloons and a wall-to-wall banner welcome Erin Geraghty home from college. It’s not her birthday — she’s 21. It’s not her graduation — she’s a first-semester University of New Hampshire senior. And it’s not Valentine’s Day.

It’s her 20th year with the same heart.

Born with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy — a condition that causes the heart to pump blood inefficiently — Erin received a heart transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital when she was just 1 year old.

Her sister Katie, two years her senior, remembers Erin’s frequent visits to the hospital. “We didn’t understand why mom wasn’t with us, but we knew it was important.”

Colleen, Katie and Jimmy with baby sister Erin, a heart transplant recipient
Colleen, Katie and Jimmy with baby sister Erin

‘Family’ at the heart of transplant

Erin coasted through her childhood with relatively few health issues.

“I didn’t live my life that differently,” she says. “I played sports all through high school; I still did everything my peers did. I didn’t understand fully what it meant to have a heart transplant.”

We knew how special it was that she was still here.

Erin’s older siblings Jimmy, Colleen and Katie were also too young to understand at the time, but the Geraghtys were raised to be informed and involved. They went to all of Erin’s appointments and, steadily, began to grasp the magnitude of Erin’s condition.

“We knew how special it was that she was still here,” says Katie.

The staff at Boston Children’s became family — in particular, medical director of the Heart Transplant Program, Dr. Elizabeth Blume. Erin was Blume’s very first transplant patient. She also was an inspiration to Colleen and Katie.

From the sidelines to the frontlines

Today, Colleen is a first-year medical student at Virginia Commonwealth, and Katie is a registered nurse, working on the inpatient cardiac floor at Boston Children’s.

“Knowing what a special place Boston Children’s is and the relationships we formed made me want to give back and help out,” Katie says. “I learned from Erin’s nurses how to be a voice for patients and their families.”

Erin is following her sisters’ lead. She is studying to become a child life specialist. And, like Katie, hopes to work at Boston Children’s one day.

Colleen, heart transplant recipient Erin and Katie
From left, Colleen, Erin and Katie

Learn more about the Boston Children’s Heart Transplant Program.