Area couple shares baby daughter’s heart transplant journey

'Hearts for Hadlee' fundraiser Saturday

While other parents spend time doing normal activities with their children, Anthony and Mariah Fuchsel spend much of their time at the hospital.

“Seeing parents take their kids to, like, the pumpkin patch — we want to do that,” Mariah said. “It’s hard as a new family anyway.”

The Fuchsels just moved to La Crosse in January and brought Hadlee Rose into the world in June, but in August, they took their then two-month-old baby to the doctor.

“She’s just the happiest, most content baby. You would never know,” Mariah said.

Hadlee had stopped eating. It was a sign of a serious condition: dilated cardiomyopathy.

“We were really surprised,” Mariah said.

Hadlee’s heart took up most of her tiny chest, and her lung was collapsed.

“The first day, they told us we could lose her. They have to tell us those things, but it was hard for me to hear those words and not know what the next 10 minutes would bring,” Anthony said.

From then on, there was no future, just the present.

“It was enough for us to just live in that day,” Anthony said.

Anthony and Mariah moved once again, this time from La Crosse to Rochester, where Hadlee receives treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

“Oh, we were here every day,” Mariah said.

An external device kept her heart beating as she waited at the top of the list for a transplant.

“We just wanted it to come soon,” Mariah said. “That was the biggest thing. We just wanted to take her home.”

They took it day by day, waiting 74 days on the list.

“I didn’t think the day would come, really,” Anthony said.

Then, two days ago, Anthony and Mariah received a late-night call, telling them it was time for Hadlee’s lifesaving heart transplant surgery.

“I was so excited,” Mariah said.

With the worst behind them, the new family can finally look ahead.

“Now we can focus on the future,” Anthony said.

“Just taking her home and appreciating all the time that we get with her now, probably more than we would’ve, had we not been in this situation,” Mariah said.

Hadlee is now doing well and should be able to go home soon.

There will be a “Hearts for Hadlee” fundraiser on Saturday at La Crosse Archery, starting at 4 p.m., with a gun raffle, silent auction and food.

Money raised goes to support the cost of Hadlee’s medical care. Before insurance, Hadlee’s parents said, her heart transplant alone costs about $2 million.