SEATTLE - A 12-year-old from South Bend is at Seattle Children's Hospital indefinitely as she waits for a lifesaving heart transplant. It would be the little girl's second heart transplant in just over 10 years.
"This is our Seattle apartment basically. This is where we live until we get that heart," said Aunt Lindsay Andersen, motioning to the hospital room where she's staying with her niece, Shirleyann Ruth.
Family members say Shirleyann was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome at 31 hours old.
When Shirleyann comes to the card table, despite her health issues, she brings the energy. She also lets her silly side shine when her aunt brings out the Uno card deck.
"Boom beat that," exclaims Shirleyann as she slams down a winning card. "I like to beat my Auntie."
"She does quite a bit too," Andersen replies with a laugh.
Since Aug. 22, the bubbly youngster has had to trade in playing cards at the kitchen table for her bedside table at Seattle Children's Hospital, as she waits for that new heart. With Shirleyann's mom working full-time in South Bend to support the family, Aunt Lindsay is at the hospital to provide the entertainment.
"We’ll go back and forth for Uno for days at a time. We color. We stare at each other. You know, we go walk around, terrorize the hospital a little bit," said Andersen.
The youngster has been in and out of the hospital since birth. The family says she had heart surgery at just over a week old and her first transplant at 1. As she grew, doctors said she needed another.
"You get listed when you need a new heart, and then you know, as time goes by it gets a little worse here and there," said Andersen.
Shirleyann has been waiting for a match for a second transplant for four years. The family says that unfortunately, her heart is failing, and she's been back on the transplant list for more than 1,500 days.
"The more time goes by the more urgent it is," said Andersen.
The family recently set up an online fundraiser for transportation and other costs.
"If she needs a new blanket, we can get her a blanket, or a stuffies, little things that make the days just a little brighter," said Andersen.
Shirleyann plans to keep busy as she continues to wait by playing with her stuffed animals and creating skits that involve her favorite characters, such as Harry Potter and Hannah Montana. One day, when she's able to leave the hospital, Shirleyann says her first stop would be Starbucks and to visit her grandfather in Oregon
Andersen says she stays strong, but sometimes the emotions come out.
"Every once in a while, she’ll do something super silly, and it will kind of make me tear up, just a little bit," she said.