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2-year-old gets new heart in Atlanta after being abandoned by biological parents in China

She was the 400th heart transplant patient at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Two-year-old Rynli Harris is all smiles after receiving a gift of life with a new heart, months ahead of schedule at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Hospital officials are also grinning ear-to-ear because it was their 400th transplant

“We were told that we might wait up to a year and we were terrified we might not make it to that,” said Tamara Harris, Rynli’s mother. “There’s not words for hearing your child can live and that somebody would, in the midst of the most unbearable grief and pain, would choose life and what that would mean for our daughter.”

This was just a bump in the road for Rynli, and she is getting stronger every day. Doctors say her personality and giggles are coming back. 

When Rynli was 2-months-old, she was left outside a hospital in China by her biological parents with a note explaining that she had a very serious heart condition and they had run out of funds to get her the medical care she needed.

She was adopted by Tamara and Justin Harris when she was 10-months-old after they learned about her story through a adoption advocacy group they joined after adopting a child from China.

- Story continues below photos -

In September last year, her heart failure began, and she was placed on a transplant list in November.  

Tamara and Justin said Rynli's doctor, Fawwaz Shaw, surgical director of pediatric heart transplant at Children’s Heart Center, "saved her life multiple times."

“He seemed to know exactly what needed to be done. He really fought for her life over and over and over again and ultimately did save her life in the end,” Tamara said. 

According to the hospital, the Children’s Heart Center has performed more pediatric heart transplants than any other children’s facility in the Southeast. They said the 1-year and 3-year pediatric heart transplant survival rates at Children’s are better than the national average.

The very first transplant was performed on July 16, 1988 by Dr. Kirk Kanter. It was also the first pediatric transplant in the state.