If you ask Marik Lingo about her heroes, she’ll name three. The first is her little sister Tessa, the second, her oncologist and family friend Dr. Gale, and the third is St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the cardiothoracic surgeon who performed her heart transplant.
Marik’s path to transplant began just after she completed chemotherapy for Acute myeloid leukemia. “When listening to Marik’s heart, a nurse heard a ‘gallop’, says Carrie Lingo, Marik’s mom. The family was sent straight to an ICU where she spent more than two months until her heart could be regulated with medication. The diagnosis: dilated cardiomyopathy. This heart condition was a side effect from one of the drugs used to treat Marik’s leukemia
“We were so thrilled that Marik’s cancer was in remission,” says Carrie. “ Everything was looking up—we were ready to move on from cancer. We were literally moving into a new house and we were also moving on to a healthy new life. So when we found out Marik was in heart failure, and would eventually need a heart transplant, we were in shock. “
“While Marik wasn’t sick enough to be put on a transplant list, she could barely walk to the mailbox,” says Carrie. “Her body was always cold and she had no strength. After a while, she required around the clock intravenous medication and an external defibrillator. “
“At one point I remember getting upset with my sweet husband when he talked about a child with a heart transplant that was now healthy and playing soccer. I told him I didn’t want to hear about that—I couldn’t imagine Marik ever playing sports again.”
In February of 2007, after a bout of the flu, Marik was put on the transplant list. Carrie credits the doctors, nurses and staff of St. Louis Children’s Hospital with bringing “a ray of hope” into their life. “They were so positive and made us feel like everything would be okay. Marik’s cardiologist, Dr. Canter, and his whole team were always truthful—they never offered false hope—but they helped us envision better things for her. “
In May of 2007, Marik received her new heart. “It was amazing--she started to look better as soon as she came out of surgery,” says Carrie.
Now, whenever Carrie sits on the sidelines of Marik’s volleyball, or basketball or Lacrosse games—she smiles when she thinks about the conversation she had with her husband about Marik and sports.
“Grateful does not begin to describe our feelings for everyone at St. Louis Children’s Hospital –and more importantly our donor family. While I don’t know who they are, or where they live, I sometimes imagine them coming to one of Marik’s volleyball games. I’d of course tell them thanks, and then I’d point out the tall, healthy teenager on the volleyball court and simply say—she’s number ten.”