MOORESVILLE, N.C. — One 12-year-girl is persevering after two heart transplants.


           What You Need To Know

    • Sophia Brownlee was born with several heart conditions and was missing one of her four heart chambers 

    • She had a heart transplant shortly after birth, which saved her life

    • At age 11 her heart stopped working and she needed a second transplant

    • She is now back to her normal activities, but may need another heart someday


Sophia Brownlee, 12, has been swimming since she was little. She says when she’s moving in the water, her mind is at ease.

A year ago, she started swimming competitively on the Harbor Seals swim team in Mooresville. It has been a long medical journey to get to this point.

“I was sad when I couldn’t go into the water after the first six weeks of my transplant,” Sophia Brownlee said.

When she was born, she was missing one of the four chambers of her heart. She also had two additional heart conditions.

Her parents feared the worst.

“I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to make it,” Sophia’s father, Joe Brownlee, said.

But a heart transplant saved her life. After surgery, she could enjoy the same activities as her friends and siblings. She also went horseback riding and hiking with her family. By 11 years old, hardship struck once again.

“The transplanted heart had done really well for her, then it all of a sudden quit on us,” Sophia’s mother, Renee Brownlee, said.

Her body started to reject her first heart, and she needed a new one.

“This really hit us hard,” Joe Brownlee said. “We did not expect to get this diagnosis.”

Sophia’s sheer will to survive shined through again with her second heart transplant. She made it through surgery and returned to her normal activities. But doctors say there is a chance her body might reject the second heart.

It’s why the family is pushing for more research and funding with the nonprofit Enduring Hearts. It helps children living with heart transplants.

“This is a lifelong journey,” Joe Brownlee said. “She will probably need another transplant at some point in her life. That is what we want to battle and fight.”

Despite any challenges ahead, Sophia Brownlee says she is living her life to the fullest and hopes to be an inspiration for others battling similar medical challenges.

“For people who have conditions like me, never give up on stuff that you love,” Sophia Brownlee said. “It may help you in the future.”

According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 50% of people who receive a heart transplant survive after 10 years. But in children that number is higher. About 70% of children survive past 10 years with a heart transplant.

Doctors are trying to find ways to improve survival rates.