Couple shares newborn baby’s story while waiting for heart transplant

A Wisconsin Dells-area couple is waiting for a call that will save their newborn baby’s life.

Six-week-old Heath Cornford has a form of dilated cardiomyopathy, meaning his heart is too weak, and he needs a new one to survive.

“He’s a strong little guy,” Heath’s mother, Milynda Cornford, said. “He’s a character. He likes music. He’s got big blue eyes.”

Heath’s eyes tell a story.

“Everybody’s that’s come in the room says he’s a beautiful baby,” his father, Travis Cornford, said. “And he is. I honestly think he is. Just why did it have to happen to him?”

Even though Heath hasn’t seen much outside the hospitals where he’s spent all six weeks of his life, his parents write a blog through his eyes.

His story began on Feb. 22 at a Sauk Prairie hospital, where he was born and also died.

“He grabbed my finger. I was thinking in my head, he’s like, ‘Dad, something’s wrong,'” Travis said. “I watched him turn purple. (Milynda’s) crying, saying, ‘My baby’s dying.'”

Health workers brought him back and took him to UW-Health in Madison.

“It was pretty devastating,” Travis said.

Heath is now at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, awaiting a heart transplant.

According to Dr. Steven Kindel, medical director of heart transplantation at the hospital, surgeons perform only about 400 heart transplants a year on children nationally, and even fewer on babies.

He said the hospital performs about a dozen pediatric heart transplants a year, and 15 to 20 percent of babies die while on the waiting list.

‘We don’t know if he’ll be waiting a week, a month, six months, a year,” Milynda said. “We don’t know that right now.”

Every day, the Cornfords make a 230-mile roundtrip from their home to see Heath.

“He’s a happy little baby most the time,” Milynda said. “He doesn’t like all the tubes and wires.”

“We have to wear badges every day,” Travis said. He takes those clips and puts them on his hat. “I’m going to fill up my hat until he comes home,” he said.

Almost every day, they write in his blog, keeping a record for Heath when he grows up, but also for parents looking down the same road.

“Maybe this can help somebody else, because it’s hard,” Milynda said.

Heath has already changed his parents’ outlook.

“A lot of people take life for granted,” Travis said, “but you can’t.”

Although he will be on medication for the rest of his life, a new heart would allow Heath to live a mostly normal life.

He will have to wait in the hospital until a heart becomes available.

Those interested in following Heath’s story or donating to medical and travel costs can visit this website.