Miracle toddler beats the odds to come home

After a 5 1/2 month uphill battle, 2-year-old McKinley Lael Nilson had a miraculous homecoming in August. The toddler became one of the few people to be weaned from using an external heart assist device without a heart transplant.

McKinley’s mother, Ruth, said McKinley was a completely healthy, normal 2-year-old when she caught a virus. After being in and out of the doctor’s office and ER for treatment without improvement, she was taken by ambulance to Primary Children’s Hospital. Tests showed Parvob19 attacked had and enlarged her heart, which put her in heart and kidney failure. 

“They tried a lot of interventions in the beginning to try and get her heart to recover, but it wasn’t working, so they put her on the BerlinLVAD,” said Ruth. The device acts as an external heart that helps with the pumping so her own heart wouldn’t be under so much stress. Normally, this device is used for those in heart failure, in need of a transplant.

“We really didn’t want to do that with her. We hung on to a little bit of hope that her heart could recover on its own,” Ruth said.

Between medicine and interventions, McKinley’s heart made improvements. Doctors reached out to colleagues across continents to learn how to wean McKinley off the device, something rarely done before, and never in Utah.

On August 27, the Santaquin Fire Department gave McKinley a ride home on a fire truck to celebrating friends and family, including her three siblings.

The Nilson’s really don’t know what the future looks like for McKinley. “There are no statistics, we’re just hopeful that God has brought her this far and we feel like things will go on and she can live a healthy and happy life,” said Ruth.

Ruth said her family has learned to have faith in miracles. “Never give up hope on your child. When medical and mathematic things don’t make sense, miracles make sense. Miracles can happen.”