A heart for the holidays

Borough girl recovering following transplant surgery

Olivia Thompson, 7, of Naugatuck, underwent heart transplant surgery Nov. 25 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. –CONTRIBUTED

Olivia Thompson, 7, of Naugatuck, underwent heart transplant surgery Nov. 25 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — On the day before Thanksgiving, a young borough girl received something she had been waiting months for — a new heart.

Olivia Thompson, 7, underwent heart transplant surgery Nov. 25 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, Christy Thompson, her mother, said.

“She is doing pretty well,” Thompson said. “As she continues to recover she will need rehabilitation. She is not going to be coming home this month, but hopefully soon.”

Olivia, a second-grader at Western Elementary School, has cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle is abnormal and isn’t strong enough to pump blood adequately. She didn’t have any noticeable symptoms until this past summer. She had a couple of surgeries in August, was on life support for a few weeks and put on the list for a heart transplant.

Thompson said Olivia must undergo weekly tests for the time being to ensure her body is accepting her new heart.

So far, Thompson has noticed a big difference in her daughter.

“She is happy,” Thompson said. “She was very sick before, so there is definitely a difference.”

Olivia hasn’t been able to attend school this year, but she isn’t far from the minds of the students and staff at Western.

The school has raised thousands of dollars to support the Thompson family through fundraisers, including a Jump Rope for Olivia event Oct. 20 — Olivia’s birthday — that raised over $1,800.

Western Elementary School Principal Brenda Goodrich said just because Olivia has received a new heart doesn’t mean the school will stop helping her and her family.

“We haven’t stopped,” Goodrich said. “She still has a long road ahead of her. We want to support the family. They’ve been living in a hospital for months.”

Support for Olivia has come from throughout the community. Students at Naugatuck High School have been selling bracelets to raise money for the Thompson family and a Go Fund Me page — Our Hearts Go Out to Olivia — raised $9,105 as of Monday.

Students at Western have also been making get well cards for Olivia to help raise their classmate’s spirits.

Thompson said Olivia received the latest batch of cards the day before her heart transplant surgery.

“A couple hours before surgery Olivia was looking through the notes and pictures. She was very happy,” Thompson said.

Thompson said her family is grateful for the outpouring of support over the past few months.

“The outpouring of love we feel from everybody is wonderful. We appreciate all that support,” Thompson said.

As Olivia continues down the road to recovery, Thompson said she is looking forward to coming home and being with her family.

“The thing she misses the most is being home and playing with her sister,” Thompson said. “She wants to come home and play with her toys. She misses her friends at school.”