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4-year-old who prayed for new heart now praying for family whose sacrifice allowed her to live

'We just live our life every day. And know that Brilee is living for herself and the donor.'

ATLANTA — Brilee Castro prayed every day for a new heart. The 4-year-old would hold hands with her dad and bow her head in her hospital room.

But now that she had a successful heart transplant, her family say’s she’s praying for a whole new list of people.

Brilee's mom said they still hold hands and pray every day but now it's for the family of the child who donated Brilee's new heart.  They’re praying for their strength and love, and the new life they've given their little girl.

Doing sit-ups on the exam table, Brilee wants to show her doctors that she's strong but still the silly kid they came to love as she waited in the hospital for her heart transplant.

“Brilee is a wild, sassy, dancing, normal 4-year-old that just had a lot of obstacles to overcome in the past 4 years,” mother Whitney Castro said.

The obstacles started as soon as she was born. She needed immediate open-heart surgery and has endured countless surgeries since.  With congenital heart disease, she was running out of options.

“She became a kid who was stuck in her room, stuck in her bed,” Dr. Butto, pediatric cardiologist, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center, said. “Hooked up to a ton of drugs. Hooked up to her feeds and not feeling well. And we wanted to say, she should feel normal, she should be able to run and play.”

Convinced that a heart transplant was her only option, they settled in the hospital to wait.

“A couple days after we were listed, her nurse walked in and said, hey, will you pray with me for my new heart? so there they sat, praying,” Castro said.

For months, Brilee prayed with her parents, her nurses, bowing her head in hopes of a new heart.

“Just sad seeing what a 4-year-old has to pray for,” Castro said. “It was hard.”

Brilee was ecstatic when they told her she was getting a new heart.  She's only four, so all she knows is that another little kid didn't need theirs anymore.

“We told her a lot and she's aware of the sacrifice that someone made to give her the gift of life, and we're just extremely grateful to her donor family,” Castro said.

Brilee's mom doesn't want her to take a single day for granted. So, they blow bubbles, climb tables, and have dance parties in the hallway.

“We just live our life every day,” Castro said. “And know that Brilee is living for herself and the donor.”

Donor hearts usually last 10 to 15 years so Brilee's family knows there will be challenges in the future. But, for now, they just want her to live every single day she has to the fullest.


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