If you’re driving down Interstate 71 or Interstate 75 and see a teenage girl’s face on billboard that looks familiar, it just might be. That’s because a picture of 15-year-old Greenfield resident Lauryn Gibson is among rotating photos appearing on 14 or 15 billboards in the Cincinnati area promoting next month’s Heart Mini 39.
A freshman at McClain High School, Lauryn, the daughter of Chet and Heather Gibson, had a heart transplant three days before her first birthday.
Her father said that at the time of the transplant she was given a life expectancy of 10 years, but, “She’s strong as an ox and doing really well.”
The Mini Heart 39 is a weekend of events March 12-13, including a mini marathon, that benefits the American Heart Association. Heather said this is the third year Lauryn has appeared on billboards promoting the event, including last year when she was wearing her Greenfield cheerleading uniform.
Lauryn was 6 weeks old, Heather said, when she started having congestive heart failure due to cardio myopathy, which expands the size of the heart and makes it ineffective in pumping blood.
After the diagnosis Heather said the family was told they wouldn’t get Lauryn home because her heart function was only 16 percent. But they brought her home anyway on Valentine’s Day in 2001.
“They said that when she started cutting teeth and having other milestones like they have that first year, her heart wouldn’t take the extra stress and she would have to be hospitalized,” Heather said. “But she had been home 278 days when we got the call for a transplant.”
Since the transplant Lauryn’s parents say she has done exceptionally well. She’s had no episodes of rejection during her teen years, not even anything that required a change of medications.
She is a cheerleader at McClain and especially likes football season. She’s also cheered for basketball, was on a competition cheerleading team in her younger years, and is involved in FFA.
Her father said the family has raised its own cows and pigs the last two years on grass and organic feed, and that Lauryn helps with raising the animals. He also said Lauryn uses a lot of essential oils rather than taking some medicines.
Lauryn also likes four-wheeling, mudding, go-cart racing and parasailing. In fact, her picture on the billboards this year was taken during a 15th birthday party at Full Throttle Cart Racing – after Lauryn had been racing.
Heather said that when Lauryn first saw her photo on a billboard she joked, “I can’t believe you gave them that picture. I have helmet head.”
At the race track, Heather said Lauryn went straight for the faster gas-powered go-carts.
“We tried to get her to do the electric ones, but she would have no part of it. She just wanted to go fast,” Heather said.
Besides laughing about helmet head when she saw her billboard picture, Heather said her daughter thought it was kind of cool, but no big deal. “It’s just kind of second nature to her,” Heather said. “She smiles and grins, but it was no major star-struck reaction.
“She really does live her life to the fullest and enjoys everything she can,” Heather said.
The Gibsons said Lauryn’s doctors have placed no real limitations on her and have released her do whatever she wants. She will always be on medicine to keep her from rejecting the heart, but Lauryn’s dream for as long as her mom can remember is go to college in Florida at the University of Tampa to become a veterinarian.
“I just think she’s an inspiration to a lot of people because she’s so courageous about it,” Heather said. “She lives her life like it never happened and she learned a long time ago that you have to live life to its fullest.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.