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A Heart on Valentine’s Day

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Its one of those stories that if it was in a movie, you would think it would never actually happen in real life. And yet, here we are. On Valentines Day, and Hailey Steimel is in surgery getting a new heart.

For Cedar Rapids Prairie High School English Teacher Debbie Erenberger, it all started with a text.

"I happened to be sitting at an eye doctor's appointment and I immediately started crying and people looked at me and I said, Hailey's going to get a new heart, said Erenberger.

The people around her instantly knew what she was talking about. Haileys transplant is the beginning of the end of a process for students, faculty and the rest of the community that lasted the entire school year.

"It's been amazing to see, it just pulls our school together, said Cedar Rapids Prairie High School Principal Erik Anderson. Kids from all different backgrounds are pulling together for the same cause, to support Hailey and her family."

Fundraising events helped offset her medical costs. Part of that effort, hope for Hailey t-shirts to get the word out.

"These just flew off the shelves, said English Teacher Jolynn Swartzendruber. They had to do several orders of them."

"If you're around high school kids, they can get caught up in a lot of drama at times, but when it really gets serious and real, that's what really brings a community together, said Associate Principal and Activities Director Rocky Bennett.

Serious enough to learn something in a way that no one wants to.

"This is a lesson that can't be taught in a book. You can't read a book, you can't write a story about it. It comes from the pun intended, said Erenberger.

But its a message that no one is likely to forget.

"Anyone who is in this high school will remember this. They'll be talking about this at their 50th class reunion, said Erenberger.

At the beginning of the school year, the student body sent Hailey a Happy Birthday message. Today, before she went into the operating room, for a surgery to save her life, they got a message back.

"Hi everyone, said Hailey from her hospital bed. Thank you for all your support and love."

A thanks to everyone who made it possible for her to get the best present from a lot of special someones. A heart, on Valentines Day.
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