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Baby Dillon: A Year Later

The Early Show revisits Maj. Hal Sellers and his wife, Betsy, who were facing a world of uncertainty last year at this time.

With Maj. Sellers being sent to serve with his fellow Marines in Iraq, his wife was left home in California with an infant, who needed a heart transplant.

Thousands of emotional stories could be told by the military men and women who've served in Iraq, but this was one story that gave new meaning to the term "heart-wrenching."

Viewers fell in love with a little baby boy named Dillon who needed a heart transplant, just as his father was called to duty.

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Fast-forward a year: CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports on how this family is doing.

It wasn't long after Dillon's birth 16 months ago that doctors made a terrifying discovery. Dillon Sellers heart wasn't circulating blood properly and surgery wouldn't fix it. He needed a new heart.

"We realize that Dillon might not make it," his mom, Betsy Sellers said at the time. "That the odds are really not in his favor."

And that was a burden Betsy Sellers had to bear alone. Her husband, Maj. Hal Sellers was determined, in spite of Dillon's condition, to fight in the Iraqi war. He even turned down a desk job in California to serve as second in command with his marine unit in the Middle East.

His wife notes, "He can't do much for Dillon. You know, we're very helpless. And this is a way he felt he could give something, now."

Just days before doctors feared the baby would lose a life-and-death battle, a donor heart was found. Dillon went into surgery and the CBS The Early Show tracked down Dillon's dad in Kuwait.

Maj. Sellers says, "While I've been busy here, and engaged, certainly in the back of your mind, you're wondering what's going on: What was going on with Dillon, and how he was doing. So it's a little more satisfying to know that at least he's got a heart, and his recovery seems to be going well so far."

By the time Maj. Sellers came home last year, Dillon was making regular trips home from the hospital, making the family whole again.

Asked if there was a time when she worried that she could lose her husband and her son, Betsy Sellers says, "Yes, there was. But there was nothing productive in thinking that way. It was easier for me to dream about a day like today."

Healthy baby Dillon was screaming his lungs out. And that was music, even to the ears of big brothers Alex, 8, and Eric, 6, who helped ready Dillon's nursery.

Before finally coming home for good on Father's Day, Dillon had spent 172 days in the hospital.

Betsy Sellers says, "We want to thank especially our donor family that gave us this chance to be here today, and for Dillon to go home to his family."

Monday morning, Betsy Sellers, holding her son in her arms, tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler that 17-month-old Dillon is doing well. "He just hit a year since the transplant last week, and so he went through quite a battery of tests at Loma Linda and everything came out just excellent for him."

And his proud father notes Dillon has gotten used to the camera. "He's got a couple of tricks," he says. "He crawls pretty good now and he's getting close to walking. So I think it is only going to be a little bit of time. He tries to get to the point where he can keep up with his brothers. He's not quite to the point but getting there."

Alex and Eric are getting used to seeing their little brother at home. "They enjoy it," Maj. Sellers says, "We weren't sure. They went through a lot seeing him down in the hospital like he was. But they're very thankful to have him here. And I think they're pretty good big brothers. They mess with him a little, but they enjoy having him around."

His wife Betsy says she no longer takes anything for granted. "We give thanks not only for our donor family, but for all of the blood donors that helped Dillon."

The Sellers actually got to meet with Dillon's donor family last year. Betsy Sellers says, "It was a wonderful experience. It not only gave us a chance to tell them thank you face-to-face, but they spent just a lot of time holding Dillon. They were just so amazed that a part of their baby was in Dillon and giving him life and, you know, bringing him back to our family. And they took pictures of him. I think it was very gratifying on both of our sides."

Bryan Stewart, who represents One Legacy, an organization that facilitates organ donations points out, "We are so inspired every time we see the good works that our work on the front line does. And we have an amazing team of professionals that are meeting with families all the time, families who find themselves in a difficult position of losing a loved one. And to see the good that can come out of their willingness to share at such a difficult time is just so inspiring."

He has found that it is actually an important step on the way to recovery for those families who choose to donate and see the spirit of their loved one living on in others.

Stewart notes, "There were about 24,000 transplants across the country last year. And the amazing thing to keep in mind beyond the statistics is for every person that receives a transplant, you aren't just giving that person their life. You're giving them back to their family, back to their community. And it just makes us all stronger."

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