Samantha Riggs waits for a heart at Duke Children's Hospital.
Durham, N.C. - Most ten-year-old girls want a pony, a dollhouse or a trip to Disney World. Samantha Riggs needs something. Something her mother can't give her. Her dad can't provide for her. Something that could save her life.
The little girl literally has a broken heart. There was no warning. One day she was fine. The next, she was in the emergency room. On December 7th, Samantha's heart suddenly became so enlarged and beat so fast, she almost died.
"She's a very strong girl. She's stronger than me. All of us are probably taking it harder than she is," Samantha's mother, Randi Riggs, said.
Samantha turned 10-years-old in her hospital bed and celebrated Christmas there, too.
"She's very smart. She knows what's going on. Even though she's quiet and reserved, she listens. Even though she may act like she's not listening, she understands a lot," Duke Children's Hospital Pediatric Cardiologist Heather Henderson said.
A "Berlin Heart" helps the blood flow through Samantha's body and keeps her alive.
"Basically, it's a heart that's outside her body. It is extracting blood and then pumping it back into her body. It's doing the work of her heart," Henderson said.
Samantha nicknamed the machine, "Bertha," because she said, "It just sounded like a good name...It's annoying. All it does is beep."
Samantha's Dad, Tony Riggs, said it's tough to see his daughter hooked up to a machine. "We don't watch the clock. The simplest thing we have to do is sit here and keep her entertained. Keep her busy. That's the hardest thing, waiting. The phone could ring at any time."
Doctors feel confident she'll get a heart. It could take days, weeks or months.
"I'd take her place in a minute. Some days she has a lot of discomfort. Some days she does really great," Randi said.
Tony added, "Sometimes, we'll stop and think, 'This can't be happening. She was just playing basketball and riding her bike and doing sleepovers and Girl Scouts.'"
While she waits for a heart, Samantha has started selling Girl Scout cookies from her hospital room. So far, she's sold more than 400 boxes.
"I have bought a lot of Girl Scout cookies from her," Henderson said.
When she's not selling cookies, Samantha dreams of ditching the hospital food.
"I want a steak from Golden Corral. Just a steak. Just a steak. That's all I want. Some A1 Sauce and a steak," Samantha said.
Of course, she also wants to get out of her hospital room.
"I want to do all kinds of things like go to the mall or go to a restaurant or places like the zoo," she said.
Doctors say "Bertha" can keep Samantha alive for months. It should be long enough for her to get a transplant. However, sadly, the only way to save Samantha's life is for someone else to lose theirs.
Even then, cardiologists say donor hearts only last ten to twenty years. She may need another heart transplant down the road.
The Riggs family is from the Mount Airy area. The community there has wrapped its arms around the Riggs family. Medical bills are adding up. Samantha's mother hasn't been home since the first week of December, but she's not complaining.
How You Can Help
Visit any Bank of America Branch and donate to the "Samantha's Heart" Fund. The account holder is Michael Coleman.
You can also donate money via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org
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