Eleven-year-old Anna Reese Henderson has a new heart, but her amazing story of survival and recovery has captured the hearts of many.

A community of supporters and prayer warriors turned out Sunday morning to show their support for Anna Reese and her family and wish the heart transplant recipient a happy birthday.

“None of us knew it was going to be so grand,” said Anna Reese’s mother, Melissa Henderson. “She was so happy to see everyone.”

With Anna Reese’s low immune system, threat of a virus and respiratory issues, she is unable to be around people, explained her mother.

With Anna Reese turning 11-years-old last Wednesday, her church family at First Baptist Church in Corinth thought it would be a special treat for everyone to line the street around the church and Henderson family drive by to see birthday wishes.

People waved, yelled encouragement and held up handmade signs of love and support.

The Henderson family enjoyed every second. “The hardest part,” admitted the mother, “was not being able to give out hugs.”

Joining Anna Reese with mother for the surprise event was her father, Daniel Henderson, and 12-year-old sister, Liza, a 7th-grader at Iuka Middle School. The oldest Henderson daughter, 16-year-old Audrey, is a student at the Mississippi School for the Arts in Brookhaven.

Anna Reese was back in Nashville this week for cardiac check-ups twice a week. There have been issues since the heart transplant on May 23 as the patient remained in the Monroe Carnell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University for 97 days.

“There have been a lot of issues since the transplant,” noted Melissa. “It has taken awhile, but she is really doing well.”

The Henderson family moved to Iuka in June for Daniel to be closer to his job as a physical therapist. They had been Corinth residents since 2006.

Melissa said the level of support from both the community and their church family has been outstanding.

“It isn’t something we could do alone,” said the mother. “Our church family has been supportive. It takes other people helping out to get through it all.”

Anna Reese was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare severe congenital heart defect where the left ventricle of her heart was missing, the mom explained.

The family has been amazed at the level of medical care available at Vanderbilt.

“We are so much appreciative of the medical world,” said Melissa. “And the level of support back at home.”


A 1981 University of Tennessee - Martin graduate, Mark Boehler has over 40 years of journalism experience. His wife Dawn is the love of his life and they share five grown children and 10 grandchildren. His passion is his work - writing and photography.

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