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updated: 5/17/2012 4:52 PM

Heart of organ donor beats on in Hanover Park child

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  • Kara Mellick listens to her daughter's beating heart, which was transplanted in 2009 to Faris Samara, now 4.

      Kara Mellick listens to her daughter's beating heart, which was transplanted in 2009 to Faris Samara, now 4.
    Courtesy of Kosair Children's Hospital

  • Karlie Renee Mellick, the Louisville infant whose heart was harvested after she was shaken and beaten to death in 2009.

      Karlie Renee Mellick, the Louisville infant whose heart was harvested after she was shaken and beaten to death in 2009.
    Courtesy of Kara Mellick

  • Allison Ellis, Mellick's mother, cries as she hears her granddaughter's heart beating inside a healthy Faris Samara. Faris' mother, Siham, middle, found the reunion "heartbreaking."

      Allison Ellis, Mellick's mother, cries as she hears her granddaughter's heart beating inside a healthy Faris Samara. Faris' mother, Siham, middle, found the reunion "heartbreaking."
    Courtesy of Kosair Children's Hospital

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

Kara Mellick held a stethoscope to the chest of a 4-year-old Hanover Park boy last week, and heard the beating heart of her only daughter.

"In an instant it brought back the memory of when I first heard her heartbeat when I was still pregnant," the Clarksville, Ind. mother said. "It was all the same feelings, of being joyful, amazed and blessed."

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Mellick's 9-month-old daughter, Karlie, died in 2009 after being beaten and shaken by a neighbor now serving a 17-year sentence.

Today, her little heart beats in the chest of Faris Samara, the youngest of four boys of Siham and Khalid Samara.

Last week, Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, Ky., sent Kara Mellick and her mother, Allison Ellis, to Hanover Park to meet the Samara family.

Kosair Spokesman Steve Menaugh said Norton Healthcare wanted to thank Mellick for her involvement in their Illuminate Child Abuse campaign.

"This kind of meeting is a bit unusual," Menaugh said. "Often, the family that donates the organ gets closure just knowing the transplant led to a successful outcome, while the recipient family is nervous they might not live up to expectations."

A letter written by Siham Samara shortly after the transplant made its way from Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where the surgery took place, to Kosair and finally Mellick.

"I had to find out more about the donor," Samara says.

The mothers' correspondence led to a Facebook relationship, where they eventually talked about meeting.

"I definitely wanted to meet the family," Mellick said, "but I had to wait until the criminal case came to a close."

Siham Samara watched as Mellick and her mother took turns listening to Faris' heart beating with the stethoscope.

"It was pretty emotional," Samara said. "She was so happy to hear her daughter's heart beating, but all I kept thinking about was the sacrifice she had made."

After the beating in 2009, Karlie was in the hospital two days before doctors determined she was not going to recover.

"I knew that I did not want Karlie to be in a vegetative state for the rest of her life, and I wasn't going to keep her for my own selfishness," Mellick said. "Therefore, I did decide to donate her organs. I didn't want any other kid out there to suffer."

Faris, meanwhile, was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome that resulted in the left side of his heart being severely underdeveloped.

He underwent his first open heart surgery at 10 days old, and a second one at two months.

Ultimately, doctors determined he would not survive without a heart transplant and that led to Faris spending three months at Children's Memorial Hospital, waiting for a donor.

"We are just so grateful," his mother says. "He still gets multiple therapies, including speech therapy after having an oxygen tube down his throat for so many months. But that's to be expected. He's just a happy boy, who's always smiling."

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