Antioch University of Santa Barbara’s Alumni Spotlight
Krysta Falloon : Survivor of Hypoplastic Left – Heart Syndrome
December 9, 1988 Krysta was born with a heart defect called Hypoplastic left- heart syndrome. An underdevelopment of the left part of the infant’s heart, hypoplastic left-heart syndrome causes complications in the pumping of blood through the body. “My parents had brought me home from the hospital already, and my grandma was with my mom helping her out with me. I began turning gray, making grunting noises, and my lips started turning blue, which were signs that something was not right. This was because the left ventricle of my heart was severely underdeveloped. Blood was unable to pump properly through my the left chamber of my heart, causing it to back up into my lungs, preventing me from breathing” explained Krysta. Found in a small percentage of infants this heart defect was considered incurable taking the lives of many of those infants born with it. However, due to the recent success of infant transplants by Dr. Bailey and his team of exceptional doctors at Loma Linda University’s Medical Center in California, Krysta’s journey would not end here.
Only 20 days old Krysta Falloon was the recipient of a heart and underwent transplant surgery, placing her as the 30th successful infant heart transplant surgery by Dr. Bailey. The story of a tiny survivor with the small heart was featured in the National Geographic in 1988 making history. “I am still not too sure WHY I was chosen to be the baby in National Geographic. However, I am in March of 1990 article, as well as a follow up article from July of 1999. I was Dr. Leonard Bailey’s 30th infant heart transplant patient. Dr. Bailey performed his first heart transplant on another baby, “Baby Fae” a few years before me, transplanting her with a baboon’s heart. I think the initial National Geographic article was done to show how far Dr. Bailey had come since Baby Fae’s transplant…I have a human heart by the way” jokes Krysta.
Fortunately for Krysta continued heart complications or the need for additional heart transplants have not been a threat or a fear in her healthy life. “Since my surgery I have been EXTREMELY fortunate to have not had any major setbacks or other surgeries. I still undergo routine angiograms that used to be every year, but are now closer to every three to five years. These are probably the worst part of being a ‘heart kid’. The only thing that has really affected me in my daily life is taking the anti-rejection medication. ( Daily medication needed to ensure her body does not reject the transplanted heart). I also get blood drawn every three months to check the levels of my medications, and have other small check-ups now and then: EKG’s, Stress Tests, Chest X-Rays etc.)” Additionally Krysta explains that aside from her pill regimen and medical check-ups, her transplant has not caused her to feel that she has experienced any emotional or physical setbacks. This being due to her receiving and living with the heart since infancy, this way of life is the only one she has ever known and it is a good one.
A alumni of Antioch University Santa Barbara graduating in June 2013, Krysta earned her degree in Child Development and Education. She currently works for the Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara and is a kindergarten aid for the Goleta Valley branch. She hopes to become a Child Life Specialist and counselor for long-term hospitalized children one day. “My transplant has positively affected me and my life. Although I do not remember having my heart transplant, I have experienced the never-ending doctor appointments, that come with being a transplant patient.My experience has changed the way I see myself, because now that I am finished with school, I have been able to recognize just how far I have come in my life. It may have taken me longer to complete college than someone who has not had such adversities to overcome, but it’s nice to be able to believe in myself. It is because of my personal life experience that I believe I can change children’s lives in a unique way.I have always enjoyed working with children; and because of my personal experiences with being a transplant patient, I want to make a difference in kids’ lives, because so many people have made a difference in mine.”
Krysta volunteers as a camp counselor annually for Camp del Corazon “ Heart Camp”, a summer cliving with heart disease. “Camp del Corazon is so much more than just a summer camp. It allows kids with heart disease to meet others in similar life-threatening situations as them”. Alongside Krysta, her parents, brother, and sister all share their support and love for Krysta the The Falloon family extend their love and appreciation for the life and miracle of their Krysta, and express this gratitude by joining Krysta and participating in many different supporting heart- disease benefits. “ Volunteering for heart camp has become a real focus in my life. The camp directors and countless volunteers, of doctors, nurses, and non-medical staff, along with the campers themselves, have all become another family to me. It’s so comforting and truly rewarding to be able to return to camp every summer, and encourage kids to live their lives to the fullest. I know I have a huge support system for life.”
Antioch has many amazing students being liberated into the world today. Many of these students we await to witness the differences they will make for the future of our community. As students we recognize the challenges other students and classmates gain to face along their path of transformation. Not many of us have the chance to wade through the obstacles some students already faced just to arrive here.
Krysta’s miraculous journey into the world is not the only thing that makes her special, but her continued involvement in the community, and her belief to live life to the fullest. Krysta has already fought for her place in the world, and although it may be a battle she continues to face. It is one in which has not weakened her hit, but has strengthened her punch.