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Living courage: Woman who got heart transplant as an infant shares medical journey

Lauren Aggen
Posted at 10:14 PM, Apr 18, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — Lauren Aggen is an Indianapolis transplant. She moved here about two years ago, just before the pandemic.

“While I am a Midwest gal at heart, my heart did come from Texas, so don’t mess with me,” Aggen said with a chuckle.

Aggen is originally from the Chicago suburbs, but as she mentions, her heart is from the lone-star state.

“I’m very grateful for a family’s unselfish decision to donate their baby boy’s heart to make my life possible,” Aggen said.

In 1989, at just eight days old, Aggen underwent a heart transplant in Chicago after doctors diagnosed her with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. She is 32 now, which according to data analyzed by the Indiana Donor Network, makes her one of the “oldest living U.S. transplant recipients with an originally transplanted pediatric heart.”

To this day, she does not know her donor family.

“At the time, we weren’t quite sure whether this heart would actually grow with her,” said Dr. Constantine Mavroudis. He was Aggen’s original transplant surgeon in Chicago, but like Aggen, he’s an Indianapolis transplant too. The surgeon serves as the Chief of Pediatric Congenital Heart Surgery at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.

“God bless her; she has the wherewithal, the courage, the tenacity to take life and live it,” Dr. Mavroudis said.

Aggen will be the first to tell you she is living a full life, even despite challenges — like her loss of hearing due to medication she took as a child.

“I can speak English and can also communicate in sign language,” Aggen said.

Clean eating, exercise and a round of 10 pills a day make up Aggen’s daily routine, but so does baking, playing board games and spending time as a newlywed with her husband, Stephen.

“I’m a very positive person and I have a positive outlook on life,” Aggen said.

Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Aggen penned a book reflecting on her life as an organ donor. She said she is thankful every day for her donor, team of doctors and family. Although she knows a second heart transplant could be on the table, she said right now, her heart is healthy.

She hopes her story serves as an inspiration for others to make a selfless choice — and consider becoming an organ donor.