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Local

Family reunited after heart transplant

Algonquin family celebrates daughter’s recovery

ALGONQUIN – Susan and Dave Bockman didn't know if they would ever get this moment.

Their 1-year-old daughter, Danielle, was home, smiling and laughing, being passed around from relative to relative, and except for the feeding tube, looking like a normal, perfectly healthy baby.

Danielle Bockman spent about three months at Ann and Robert Lurie's Children Hospital in Chicago, after a parvovirus settled in her heart, causing a low-grade fever, faster breathing and her heart to pump at only 15 percent of its capacity.

She would need a new heart.

"We thought we were going to lose her," said her mother, Susan Bockman. "There were a few times that she really declined. I just kept hoping there would be a donor."

The heart came on May 13, shortly before her first birthday.

Susan Bockman – who had been living full-time at the Ronald McDonald House while her husband, Dave, stayed at home with their 3-year-old son, Jack – woke up to the phone call.

She didn't want to pick up the phone. She knew it could be something going wrong – the last months had been filled with ups and downs – or it could be good news.

It was good news, and since then, there's been more good news.

Danielle spent the next month recovering, eventually moving into the Ronald McDonald House with her mother, out of the hospital but close enough for observation and regular blood tests.

And then Saturday afternoon, she came home.

The house and front yard were decked out with balloons. A large sign welcoming Danielle home and wishing her a belated birthday hung on the garage door. Pink ribbons tied to trees lined the block of their Algonquin neighborhood.

Neighbors came out to welcome Danielle home and take pictures. Her paternal grandparents as well as her aunts and uncles took turns carrying her and cooing at her.

"That's a healthy smile and a healthy sound," her aunt, Terri Walker of Rolling Meadows, said, as Danielle sat in her lap, laughing as a teddy bear bounced in front of her.

"I'm elated, just relieved and joyous that we have our family back together, that all four of us are together," said her father, Dave Bockman.

Going forward, Danielle will continue to need daily anti-rejection medicine and eventually, perhaps in about 20 years, a new heart. She'll get the feeding tube taken out eventually, but for now, because she's having trouble swallowing, it's there to help her eat.

But for the most part, she'll get to be a normal girl, "gymnastics, sports and sleepovers," her mother said.

"We're done," she said to her daughter between kisses. "We're done."

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