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Heart transplant recipient Baby Blake turns 1

Updated: Thursday, October 10 2013, 08:23 PM EDT

Seneca Falls, N.Y. -- Blake Simmons sits on his daddy's lap and discovers his first word. "Da, Da, Da," he said, delighting both himself and everyone in the room.

It is an important milestone for anyone about to turn one.

Yet he is still too young to understand why he is fed through a tube in his stomach, and that this has been a year of medical milestones. "He's very determined to get what he wants," said his mother Tracey Purdy. "He's just a strong willed little boy and I focus on that and know he's going to pull through no matter what curve he wants to give us."

Beginning when he was one week old, baby Blake lived at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, hooked up to machines to do the work his heart muscles were not strong enough to do on their own. "It was hard for the first two months to get comfortable holding him because of the tubes and you're afraid you're going to hurt him," Purdy recalled.

He was born with a congenital heart defect that had no cure. His only hope - a transplant.

At five weeks old, Blake became the youngest on the waiting list for an infant heart. For three months, his parents living in separate cities - it was one day at a time. And then came the phone call that changed everything.

"It was an all-night operation," said his father Dean Simmons. "They said everything went according to plan." Fighting back the tears he added "when we saw him that's when we knew everything was going to be okay."

The family lives in Seneca Falls. They've heard from hundreds of people all over the world on Blake's Facebook page. They are grateful for the support and want to pay it forward by hosting a blood drive/organ donation registration.

"Blake had three transfusions and without them he would not have survived," explains Purdy. They are also raising money for Ronald McDonald house in Rochester where they have frequently stayed as he underwent medical treatment.

The event is August 16 from 12 to 7 p.m. at the Elks Club on West Bayard Street in Seneca Falls. "We are just so humble for everything that we've received," said Purdy.

Six medications are now part of the routine of Blake's day. Two are for anti-rejection.

He's had several surgeries including one just last month. One year later, his parents are still taking it one day at a time. "I carry the joy but also the sorrow of the little baby that died for Blake to live," says his mother, her voice cracking.

And so three months from now Blake's family will mark his first birthday again. On November 16th, the day he received his new heart. For the parents who gave him life it is a way to honor the family they don't even know, who also did the same.

"If it wasn't for the donor, he might not be here," said Simmons.

Jane Flasch, 13WHAM-TV
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Heart transplant recipient Baby Blake turns 1

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