SHOREHAM, Long Island (WABC) -- A family on Long Island has a lot to be thankful for this year now that both of their toddlers are home after receiving heart transplants for a life-threatening condition.
Brian and Ashley Cotter noticed 11-month-old Everett was congested and had a loss of appetite just before Thanksgiving last year.
His symptoms quickly worsened and the parents rushed him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy-- the very same disease his 3-year-old sister Ruby was diagnosed with in 2019.
The Cotters say receiving Everett's diagnosis was like deja vu, but it was their previous experience with Ruby's disease that gave them the instinct to act early when Everett's condition worsened.
"It was like watching through a window of us going through the same exact thing we did with our daughter," said Ashley Cotter. "I may not have brought him back to the ER if we hadn't experienced the first thing with his sister because all of the symptoms were consistent with a really bad rhinovirus."
Doctors at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital installed a device to help pump blood to Everett's heart while they waited for a transplant donor to become available. A similar procedure Ruby underwent before she received her new heart.
"He thrived with the VAD," said Dr. Irene Lytrivi, a pediatric cardiologist at the hospital. "He started walking and talking, and he was very engaged with physical therapy, very engaged with all of us."
After seven months in the hospital, Everett received his new heart on June 11 and began the slow recovery process with the support of his family and doctors.
Now, Everett and Ruby are both ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with their parents who are grateful for their family's health.
"Now seeing them, the best way to describe this whole process is you go from feeling cursed to blessed," said Brian Cotter. "You realize that when your family is going through something hard, everything else just doesn't matter."
The Cotters told Eyewitness News reporter Stacey Sager that they plan to do plenty more celebrating throughout the holiday season.
On December 22, it's Ruby's "Heart Day," and then right after Christmas, Everett turns two.
Submit a News Tip