[lightbox link=”http://www.trustforlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Hunter-with-dogsmall.jpg” thumb=”http://www.trustforlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Hunter-with-dogsmall-300×200.jpg” width=”300″ align=”center” title=”Hunter with dogsmall” frame=”true” icon=”image”]Adam and I are originally from Mayfield, Kentucky. We married in 2008, and in November 2011, we had a beautiful baby boy, Hunter. When I was younger, I had been told it would be very hard for me to ever conceive, but when we found out we were pregnant with Hunter, we knew he was our blessing, our little miracle. Little did we know that he would have any health problems, the OB/GYN never spotted that Hunter would be born with a Congenital Heart Defect. Hunter was born without his pulmonary artery and had a large hole between his left and right ventricles. My husband is in the Army and we are stationed at Fort Bragg, so the hospital where Hunter was born, sent him to Duke Hospital immediately after they discovered his issues, to the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. He had an open-heart surgery at 9 days old, which would sustain him until they could put him through a more complex surgery to do a complete repair on his heart. They said that going under a major open-heart surgery under one month old increases your risk of complications, so if they could hold off and give Hunter a chance to get larger, the better it would be. He finally got out of the hospital when he was 29 days old.
At 4 ½ months we took Hunter in for his second surgery and it went extremely well. We would go for check ups at the Cardiologists regularly to insure everything was still going well. Hunter was always healthy looking and no one could ever believe that he had a heart condition. He was a very happy boy, he loved being outdoors on his little four-wheeler and going on walks with mom and dad. I was lucky to be a stay at home mom and had a lot of time to spoil him. I would always make him whatever food he wanted, give him everything he wanted and we would play all day long. When his daddy would come in through the door, Hunter’s face would light up every single time. If he heard Adam’s truck pull up, he would be rushing to the door to greet him saying “dada dada dada!”
Around the first part of the year, Hunter didn’t really gain much weight and by late February his activity level and appetite had decreased. The middle of March, he got to where he would hardly eat at all, and then got sick. He only wanted me to hold him, which was very weird because this happy go lucky boy was the ultimate Daddy’s Boy! We took him to the hospital and they had diagnosed him with pneumonia, but one of his Cardiologists said his heart function had decreased. We scheduled to have a heart cath completed, which would give good information about what was actually going on. The Duke team decided Hunter was in heart failure and an operation would not suffice. His best and only option would be to get a heart transplant.
Hunter was listed on May 14, 2013. They had him on an IV drip to help with the function of his heart. Being on this medication made us have to stay in the hospital. During this time, I was pregnant with a due date of May 27. My mother in law was off work, so she was able to stay with us practically the entire stay. My mother, Adam’s father and stepmother also came, so Hunter was always surrounded with family. Adam’s military unit allowed him to have military leave, which allowed him to stay at the hospital full time.
On June 19, Hunter went into cardiac arrest twice, and had to go on an ECMO machine, which did the work of his lungs and heart. The machine is not intended for long-term use. On June 29, the doctors found a bleed on Hunter’s brain that caused him to come off the machine and transplant list. All that was left was a chance at a miracle, a miracle that we didn’t receive.
Hunter didn’t receive his heart transplant in time and there are a lot of people who don’t get them in time, especially children. Organ donation can help save so many lives, but it is a subject that many people hate to discuss. It is hard for some people to let go of a loved ones organs, but it can also help knowing that your loved one has the ability to provide a miracle that can save and change so many lives. Maybe by having Hunter as the poster child for organ donation and getting his story out there he can help provide that miracle and save others lives. Organ donation is something that Adam and I had rarely discussed, but after being in this situation and meeting all of the families waiting for transplants, puts an entirely new perspective on things. One of Hunter’s friends, Michael, who had been waiting for a heart for eleven months, lost his battle on 8 July 2013. We hope that we can spread the word and encourage others to donate. It’s an easy thing to sign up for and a gift that can change so many lives. When you renew or get your license, please let them know that you want to be an organ donor and give the ultimate gift.
– Written by Heather Cain (Hunter’s Mom)
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