TRUMAN - For 10 months, the Meinerts waited for a heart, going about life as usual, until they got the call that would save their child's life.
Patty and Jeff Meinert's son was born nine years ago with a rare congenital condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome - the left ventricle of his heart had not fully developed. At 6 weeks old, little Colter Meinert underwent his first heart transplant. Eleven days ago, a surgical team gathered in Rochester to perform a second heart transplant.
"He's doing really good," his mom said, talking on the phone from the hospital as the family prepared for Colter to be discharged Monday evening. He won't be going home to Truman quite yet, though, not for another three months because of the daily hospital visits required.
Colter Meinert recovers in his hospital bed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, with his parents, Patty and Jeff Meinert, at his side.
"We have to rent a house in Rochester," Patty said, an expense insurance won't be covering.
It's been a long, emotional ride. In July 2011, Colter was lying down for a nap when his parents noticed he seemed to be in pain with each breath he took, his mother said. At Mayo Clinic Health System's Fairmont emergency room, staff called the family's physician, who has been keeping a close eye on Colter and coordinating care with specialists in Rochester.
"He was really short of breath and his heart was racing fast," Dr. Jeffrey Green recalled. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, he called Rochester to consult with Colter's transplant physicians and transplant coordinators. Soon the child was in a helicopter on his way to Mayo Clinic.
In Rochester, Colter was diagnosed with heart failure and put on a transplant list. He needed a new heart, but also needed a new kidney.
"When someone has a transplant and you're dealing with all the various medications, like the anti-rejection medications, some of these can cause issues with the kidneys," Green explained.
That's when the waiting began. Patty continued working as a transcriptionist for Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, and Colter continued attending his school, a "satchel" strapped to his back carrying an infusion pump to help his heart.
"He got so used to it I think he forgot it was there," Patty said, crediting her son's positive attitude as the motivation that has helped her deal with her own heartache and worry.
"He's never down and out," she said. "His attitude has never changed. He's still the happy little kid he's always been."
And he loves his doctors.
"He's actually excited to go to his appointments," his mom said.
Patty was working late on Friday, April 20, when her husband called to tell her the good news: "'Hurry up and get here. They have a heart.'
"I don't think either of us really believed it," she said.
The new heart is working so well for Colter that he's been taken off the kidney transplant list.
"The real hero of this story is certainly Colter," Dr. Green said. "This is a young man who's had to do a lot. ... I just couldn't be happier. He's got a new heart and his future is bright."
ABC News Nightline has been following the Meinerts the past several months, with their story set to air at 10:35 p.m. tonight. It can be seen KSTP-TV Channel 5 out of the Twin Cities.