Lincoln Seay, a 7-month-old boy from Anchorage, Alaska, was close to taking his final breaths when a donor heart finally became available at Seattle Children's Hospital.
"It was a fear I've never experienced." Robert Seay, baby Lincoln's father, told InsideEdition.com
Mom Mindy Seay took a picture of her baby's hand just before he received the transplant. His hand was steel grey, and doctors did not expect him to make it.
Baby Lincoln fell into cardiac arrest on the operating table, and was not responding to various efforts to restart his heart. Doctors decided to begin the operation anyway, despite the donor heart still being in transit.
Against all odds, the surgery was a success. Twenty four hours later, Mindy Seay took another photo and this time, the baby's hand was a healthy pink.
On Wednesday, he began physical therapy.
"Everything is all right now, but time will tell," Robert Seay said. Baby Lincoln remains in intensive care, and it will be at least three months before doctors will be able to assess his condition.
The Seay family knew from 20 weeks into Mindy's pregnancy that they were about to face a complicated time in their life. During Mindy's ultrasound, doctors detected the fetus had severe congenital heart defects, which required Mindy to deliver her baby in Portland, Oregon, instead of Anchorage. Doctors told them that this would be considered a high-risk birth, and the facilities in Anchorage would not be enough.
"We handled it pretty good," Robert Seay told InsideEdition.com. "Even though [the condition] was scary in itself, we had some peace trusting our team, and trusting the plan that was in place."
Robert Seay said that from the beginning, they had capable teams in both Anchorage and Portland to handle the case. Doctors kept the couple updated every step of the way.
But, the couple didn't realize that baby Lincoln's first surgery would happen only 12 hours after his birth on July 14, 2015.
Baby Lincoln recovered quickly, and was discharged and sent home in early September.
Robert Seay explained that during these days, it was hard to imagine that such a sick child could appear so healthy. The only difference, he said, was that baby Lincoln could only stay awake 30 to 90 minutes each day. Otherwise, he looked perfectly normal.
But he into heart failure two months later. He and his mom were medically evacuated to Portland toward the end of October, where Robert Seay soon met them.
"That's when everything got scary," Robert Seay said. The surgical team soon discovered that baby Lincoln's heart was beyond repair, and it was time to begin looking for donors.
"He had gone into heart failure twice [already], so we knew he wasn't thriving," he said. "When they told me he was going to need a heart transplant, that was the first big moment of despair, because we thought they were taking a gamble. We were blind to the risk."
Anticipating that it would be a long time before the family returned home to Anchorage, Robert Seay enrolled their other two sons in a Seattle school and extra-curricular parkour classes to keep them busy. Robert and Mindy Seay also have a 16-year-old daughter, who decided to stay in Anchorage.
After almost four unbearable months, Robert Seay received the devastating call from his wife. Baby Lincoln had gone into heart failure for the fifth time, and his condition was rapidly declining.
"We knew it was the 11th hour," he said. "As a father, I try to hold the faith better and rally my family better, but those two days after the heat failure, we knew he was at the end of his rope."
Mindy Seay attempted to stay optimistic through the darker days. Just two weeks before the transplant, she posted a heart-felt thank you to the parents of donor child on Facebook, still unsure of whether their own baby would receive a heart.
"The heart that was knit together in your womb, will save the life of the baby knit together in mine," she wrote.