BY TONY HUFFMAN
GREENUP — Kallie Finn is a daddy’s girl at heart. Although Kallie doesn’t share a genetic heart with her father, she has a bond with her father that is rare — both have had heart transplants
To see the two energetically feed and ride Kallie’s miniature Shetland pony Princess in the family horse stable, any indication of heart replacements is unnoticeable. Mitch had his replacement in 1987 when he was 5, and Kallie had hers three years ago at age 4.
“For me, it started like a flu virus,” said Mitch, who is a math teacher at Oakland Community School. “I kept having pneumonia and puking. The doctor told me I had an enlarged liver because the left side of my heart was bad.”
Mitch was only the third patient under 18 to have heart replacement surgery at Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, After enduring a four-month recovery process, Mitch regained his strength and made a full recovery. He now lives an extremely active lifestyle teaching and building grain bins with the family business. He also harness races in his spare time.
“They told my parents I wouldn’t live past 18,” said Mitch, who is now 33. “The normal life expectancy isn’t there. You keep going and hope the doctors continue to get smarter, which they have.”
After having his heart transplant, Mitch was always told by doctors his condition wasn’t hereditary. So, it came as a “bad dream” when Kallie started showing the same symptoms, which included vomiting, chest pain and finally her lips turning blue.
“It was tough,” said Mitch, who added that genetic testing in recent years revealed a similar defective gene in their DNA strand. “I have pretty thick skin, but when we found out that Kallie needed a heart transplant, that wore it pretty thin.”