Durham, N.C. - A child here in the Triad, celebrated Christmas and her 10th birthday in the hospital, waiting for a present that would cost someone else's life: a new heart.
When we last saw Samantha Riggs, she was hooked up to a mechanical heart, barely able to leave her hospital bed. She and her parents waited 131 days for a new heart. On April 16, somewhere, a family lost a loved one and Samantha got a new heart.
"When they told me I was going to get a heart, I got some pom poms and shook them around like crazy in the hallway," Samantha Riggs said.
Before the surgery, a mechanical heart kept her alive. She nicknamed it, "Bertha." Now, Bertha was about to get the boot. "I thought, 'I'm finally going to be able to go home and be normal," Samantha said.
When she woke up from the eight-and-a-half hour surgery, Samantha had a message for Bertha: "Look at me now!"
Samantha's mother, Randi Riggs, said, "She's had a long road, but she's been wonderful. To see her feel better every day, is great...I learned to not take anything for granted, like putting the kids in car and go to the grocery store. People complain about that, I look forward to doing that."
Right now, Samantha is recovering from the surgery at the Ronald McDonald House of Durham, about a mile away from the hospital.
"It's really nice to not have someone poke me with a needle every morning."
But, recovering from a heart transplant is not an excuse to miss a homework assignment. Despite all her health problems, Samantha graduated from fourth grade on Wednesday.
"She's a very smart girl. She likes school. I'm proud of her for not giving up and doing what she likes to do," Randi Riggs said.
More than anything else, Samantha likes to use her imagination. She even painted a picture for the Ronald McDonald House.
"It's a heart with eyes. It feels like it has its own presence in my heart. It feels alive," Samantha said.
She has named her new heart, "Phil." Why Phil? "Just because it's a good name for a heart," she said.
Samantha is doing so well, she just needs a few more tests done at the hospital. Then, there is a very good chance she could get to go home within the next week. This week, she and her mother walked a mile.
However, Samantha will have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life. The Riggs do not know who donated the heart that saved Samantha's life, but they hope to find out one day.
On Wednesday afternoon, Samantha participated in an online chat with WFMY News 2 viewers. To see the conversation, "Like" Mark Geary's Facebook Page.
If You Want To Help Samantha Riggs And Her Family
Stop by any Bank of America location and donate to the "Samantha's Heart" fund. The account is in Samantha's grandfather's name, Michael Coleman.
On Saturday, May 25th, stop by the Hendrix Auction Gallery in Cana, VA at 4 p.m. for BBQ plates, live bands, followed by auction at 6pm. For more information, contact Wendy at 336-695-2180.
On June 5th, there is a golf tournament at Oak Valley Golf Club in Advance, NC. For more details, visit: http://j.mp/1082kbb or email or call Melinda Hire firstname.lastname@example.org - 336-716-3298