BILLINGS — Aavah Mangus is from Cowley, Wyoming. Like many 8-year-olds, she likes to draw, play with her dogs and do gymnastics. Unlike most kids, Aavah has endured a lifetime of challenges. She received a heart transplant at just three months old.
“She pretty much lived the first year and a half in the hospital, at Salt Lake,” said her mother, Amber Mangus.
Before she was even born, Aavah was diagnosed with a rare congenital condition called dextrocardia. Her heart points to the right side of her chest instead of the left.
“There was just too many complications with her heart and so the best thing for her was to get a heart transplant,” Amber said.
At such a young age, that heart transplant almost killed her.
“Reflecting back, I think it’s been five times we’ve been told to say goodbye and she has just beat the odds and come back every time,” Amber said.
Amber says her daughter developed a severe blood disorder and had to have 70% of her blood replaced, followed by a rare cancer diagnosis that only 3% of transplant patients get.
Aavah is a fighter and has overcome all of that and so much more.
“She’s done great. She seems like just a really normal 8-year-old whose heart is still working really well,” said Dr. Andrew Lashus of St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings.
Lashus is Aavah’s pediatric cardiologist and has helped care for her since shortly after she had her heart transplant in Salt Lake City.
The medical care that Lashus and St. Vincent provide has allowed the family to stay close to home.
“This is an amazing hospital. It truly is. They listen and address all your questions and concerns and I think we’re really lucky to have all the expertise and everything so close to home,” Amber said.
The family is forever grateful, especially to the six-day-old donor Nevaeh, who gave Aavah the gift of life.
“We are very, very grateful for Nevaeh, and her family,” Amber said.
Grateful for medical heroes like Lashus, who has made sure that Aavah stays healthy for over five years.
Amber hopes Aavah’s story will shed a light on how important organ donations can be.
“It saves a lot of lives and I think people would do more if they knew about it,” Amber said.
She hopes the community will consider giving back to the pediatric intensive care unit that’s given her family so much.
“That’s the reward of the job. That’s what it’s all about,” Lashus said.
Aavah still has a long journey ahead of her. She visits Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City every six months. Between those appointments, she visits Dr. Lashus several times a year at St. Vincent Healthcare.
KTVQ is once again teaming with St. Vincent Healthcare for the annual mediathon on Thursday, March 10, to raise money for the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit. Tune into Cat Country 102.9 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m to donate.