MOORESVILLE, N.C -- A Mooresville family says the power of prayer saved their daughter.

1-year-old Ella Kate Leirener has been fighting for her life since the day she was born.

“When she came out, she was gray and didn't breathe for about eight minutes,” Ella Kate’s mother Melanie recalled.

Doctors found inoperable tumors growing on her tiny heart.

“We were watching our baby fail before our eyes,” Melanie said.

Without a heart transplant, Ella wasn’t expected to make it through the weekend.

“A few times I told Ella it was ok if she needed to stop fighting,” Melanie said, tears welling in her eyes. “Because when you watch your baby hurt and gasp for air, you hit a point where you can’t watch them suffer anymore.”

That Sunday at their church Abundant Life, the pastor stopped the service and asked everyone to pray over Ella.

And on the drive home, salvation came calling.

“We were driving home and the phone rang,” Melanie said. “It was cardiology calling to say the perfect heart was ready for Ella. They said grab your bags and head to the hospital, it’s time.”

Within the hour Ella was at Levine Children’s hospital, undergoing surgery. It was successful and the first of its kind for Levine’s, since the heart was a different blood type from Ella’s.

“I’ve known her since the moment she was born,” Ella’s heart surgeon Dr. Gonzalo Alberto Wallis said. “Ella is near and dear to our hearts. The timing was really interesting, and this is how medicine should be in the 21st century.”

Ella Kate’s family says they are eternally grateful for both the miracle of prayer and modern medicine.

“It’s really fulfilling,” Dr. Wallis said. “This is why you do what you do. There are good days and bad days, this happened to be an awesome day. It’s amazing the amount of people Ella touched on her journey.”

Their prayers now are prayers of thanks, and for the baby who passed, allowing Ella Kate to live.

The Leireners say they hope to become advocates for organ donation. You can learn more about what it means to be a donor here: