Parents ‘hoping and praying’ as St. Mark, Catonsville, child recovers from heart transplant

By George P. Matysek Jr.
As his 6-year-old daughter rested in a Philadelphia hospital, still connected to life support after undergoing a June 18 heart transplant, Ed Bartlinski was praying for a miracle.
“We’re on pins and needles,” said Bartlinski, speaking to the Catholic Review in a June 24 telephone interview hours after doctors completed follow-up surgery on Teresa’s left atrium to allow her new heart to function better.
A piece of Teresa’s original atrium was left in place to connect to the new heart’s atrium. Because Teresa’s own atrium was so small, her father said it made the connection very narrow – constricting blood flow. The surgery seemed to have corrected that problem, he said, but difficulties with internal bleeding arose as the right side began to fail.
“We’re hoping and praying,” he said.
Days earlier, doctors had to perform CPR for 30 minutes after the young parishioner of St. Mark in Catonsville suffered cardiac arrest following the transplant. She had a slew of other emergencies, including the need for a blood transfusion.
“Crisis after crisis, she is still a fighter,” Bartlinski said. “I have not seen that kind of spark to live in anyone – anyone. It’s amazing.”
When Bartlinski and his wife, Ann, adopted Teresa from China in 2010, they knew they would be facing what some may have considered insurmountable challenges. Born on Christmas Day with a complex congenital heart disease and lung problems, Teresa was only expected to live a few years. Her adoptive parents, who named their daughter after Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, believe prayer helped strengthen Teresa’s weak lungs, allowing her to undergo the heart transplant.
“Teresa and the parents who donated the heart are the real heroes,” said Bartlinski, noting that the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was the only hospital willing to perform the high-risk surgery.
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Doctors allowed Teresa, a perky youngster who loves princesses, to be wheeled into surgery wearing a tiara. Her father said that before the operation, Teresa told him that with her new heart, she was looking forward to riding her bicycle without wearing oxygen equipment.
“She was also really excited about getting her ears pierced,” Bartlinski said.
Father Christopher Whatley, pastor of St. Mark, said Teresa and her entire family have been an inspiration. The Bartlinskis have four biological children and five children with special needs adopted from China.
The priest said Teresa has an innocent, sincere faith. He recalled how she wrapped her arms around him after one Sunday Mass and called him “Jesus.”
“We had to correct her,” he remembered, “but, you have no idea how that felt.”
More than 250 people crammed into St. Mark’s chapel for a June 18 prayer service for Teresa. A Facebook page in support of the girl has attracted more than 3,600 followers and people around the world are praying for her.
The proceeds from St. Mark’s June 22-23 poor box collection will be donated to the Bartlinski family to help with medical bills, Father Whatley said. Other fundraisers are in the works, and children in the parish school and religious education program have been praying for the family.
The Bartlinskis have been asking Blessed John Paul II to intercede for them, and they have also prayed the rosary for their daughter.
In a recent post on her family blog, Ann Bartlinski said God gave Teresa “incredible strength and a magical personality.”
“Through her life,” Ann Bartlinski wrote, “(God) has touched thousands of lives around the world. She has inspired others to adopt, become organ donors and love God.”
The Bartlinskis, who dream of establishing their own orphanage or heart center in China, spend their nights by their daughter’s bedside – quick to awaken at the sound of every slightest beep of the medical equipment. They hope Teresa can be taken off life support and that her new heart will begin functioning normally.
No matter what happens, they believe Teresa will have her miracle.
“Every part of Teresa’s life has been a miracle,” Ann Bartlinski said. “Her last miracle will be for God to heal her heart here on earth or he will heal her heart in heaven.”
View the Catholic Review blog “Open Window” to read more about Teresa. 
Click here to learn how to make a donation to help with Teresa’s medical expenses.
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Copyright (c) June 25, 2013

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.