"It is great to see families through the continuum, from when they often feel their child may not survive to months later, when the child is running and playing like kids should be," Hopkins says.

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PEDIATRIC HEART-TRANSPLANT COORDINATOR
Pam Hopkins

What do you do? As a pediatric heart-transplant coordinator at Seattle Children’s Hospital, I am responsible for all of the coordination when a donor heart for one of our patients becomes available.
 
How did you get started in this career? It started with my love for taking care of children. As a nurse, I worked closely with a cardiologist who one day asked me, “Pam, how would you feel about helping me take care of a little girl who had a transplant?” That was the beginning. A few years later, we developed a transplant program at Seattle Children’s. We started by doing two or three transplants a year, and last year, we did 21 transplants.
 
What’s a typical day like? I love this job because there is always something new. I take care of patients and families before, during and after the transplant until they become adults. We help patients and families understand what life as a transplant patient means and how to take care of themselves after transplant. It is great to see families through the continuum, from when they often feel their child may not survive to months later, when the child is running and playing like kids should be.

What surprises people about your work? I think people who have not been touched by transplant don’t realize that babies, kids and teenagers get sick enough to need transplants, and that it is possible to transplant small hearts. It is something that we deal with on a daily basis. Although organ donation and transplant is becoming more recognized, it is not something the general population takes time to think about. People are always intrigued to hear more about what I do.
 
What’s the best part of the job? There is nothing quite like telling a parent or a child that we have found a new heart for them. The waiting time is hard for families, and when that precious gift is finally found, it is a special time. Many of our patients have suffered from heart failure their entire lives. It’s a delight to see some of our patients six months after transplant running around and playing sports. All of this is made possible by the amazing generosity of donor families.

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