NISSWA -- Annabelle Loschko, the 4-1/2-month-old daughter of Mark and Ellie Loschko of Nisswa, remains in critical condition today at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
The Nisswa baby underwent a heart transplant Wednesday morning, but the infant has suffered complications, according to Dr. Jill Ibrahim, Annabelle's attending physician in the cardiac intensive care unit at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Annabelle will remain on full life support, which includes a heart/lung machine that is pumping for her new heart, for a few more days until there is an improvement. After that, her doctors will attempt to wean her off the machines in order to slowly have her new heart take over.
"She's still very critical," explained Ibrahim today. "It's very touch and go."
An official with Mid-America Transplant Services in St. Louis said infant heart transplants are relatively rare. That's because infants can only be matched with other infants due to the small size of their chest cavity.
At any time, there are between 35-45 infants around the country that are on a waiting list for a heart transplant. About 20 percent of babies waiting for heart transplants die before donors are found.
While most of downtown Nisswa was closed up for the night on Wednesday, the lights remained glowing at Rafferty's Pizza, with a scattering of pickups and cars parked along the snow-covered street outside.
In the restaurant window, written in red and blue paint, read: "Pray for Annabelle's New Heart." Other handwritten posters about Annabelle Loschko and her new heart greeted customers within the restaurant. A small bin of handmade pins are found on the restaurant counter. Most customers leave about $5-$10 in donations for the Annabelle Loschko Heart Fund.
Annabelle holds a special place in the hearts of Rafferty's Pizza employees. That's because her parents own the restaurant, which opened in November 2000. The couple, both 25, have been in St. Louis for about two months waiting for Annabelle's heart transplant. Since then, Rafferty's Pizza employees have been holding down the fort until the couple -- and Annabelle -- return from St. Louis.
"It was tough at first because we had to get used to doing everything ourselves," said Rafferty's employee Grace Huso. "Mark was always here just about every day."
When Huso learned Tuesday night that a heart had been found for Annabelle, she and fellow employee Anne DeWolfe got together and made signs to put up at work. Employees typically don't have to tell customers about Annabelle and her fight for life; most know all about the Nisswa baby already. They just want updates.
"A lot of people have been so concerned," said Huso. "Just about everyone says they'll keep her in their prayers."
Huso said she and her coworkers were planning to offer heart-shaped pizzas for Valentine's Day, but in honor of Annabelle, they may just have to offer the special pizzas early this year. She said she and her coworkers view Mark as not just a boss, but a friend.
"He's the best boss I've ever had," she said. "He takes pride in his restaurant and treats all of his employees fair. He's just an excellent boss."
David and Kathy Trees, Pequot Lakes, along with their family, ate dinner at Rafferty's Wednesday. It was their way to support the Loschko family, though they don't even know them.
"We've just been thinking about them a lot and decided to come down," said Kathy Trees. "I hope everything goes well. We're here because we were thinking about her and this was the place to be tonight."
Friends have started a fund to help the Loschkos pay for Annabelle's medical and other expenses. Donations can be sent to the Annabelle Loschko Heart Fund, Northern National Bank, Attn: Kathy, P.O. Box 2690, Baxter, MN 56425.
(This story includes information from The Associated Press.)
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