Over the next three months, the couple were actively involved with Ruby’s physical therapy to teach her how to hold her head up and feed from a bottle again. They took Ruby for wagon rides around the unit. Brian’s silly faces elicited Ruby’s first giggles while she was in her hospital bed. And they learned how to give Ruby baths and change the dressings around her Berlin Heart.
“What I love about the hospital is that they include you. They want you to be a part of what’s happening with your child,” says Ashley. “During the morning rounds, they come and explain everything to you. And if you don’t understand something, you can ask them 20 million questions, and they’ll talk to you about all of them.”
Ruby, however, did play favorites among the hospital staff. “We have a special place in our hearts for Dr. Lytrivi,” says Ashley. “She and Ruby have a very special connection. Whenever Ruby sees her, she always lights up and smiles.”
Despite all the incredible progress, there were lots of emotional highs and lows. After more than three months of waiting for a heart transplant, “I was thinking, ‘We’re going to be here forever. A heart is not going to be available,’” acknowledges Ashley. “I was losing hope even though Ruby was doing so well.”
On December 21, as Ashley and Brian were watching an episode of Master Chef in Ruby’s room, Dr. Lytrivi appeared at the door with the news they had been hoping for. “She said, ‘We have a heart and we think it’s a good match,’” recalls Ashley. “I was in a state of shock.”
“I get emotional every time I say it,” says Dr. Lytrivi, who explained to the Cotters that while the donor heart was a possible match on paper, the hospital’s procurement team still had to examine and harvest the organ. If everything worked out, Ruby would get a new heart the next day.
“It’s an amazing moment,” says Dr. Lytrivi. “But at the same time, there is the agony about going back to the ER, especially for kids like Ruby who have already gone through this once.”