Texas Children’s Hospital

2-Year-Old Pulls Through After Undergoing Heart Transplant When COVID-19 Started

For parents, the moment that something could be wrong enough to threaten the lives of their children quickly ranks as one of the worst moments of their lives.

There was a time when doctors suspected I had meningitis as a baby and my mom credits my grandmother's strength and patience as a major reason why she was able to survive that awful period before I was given the all-clear.

But as obviously harrowing as such times in our lives are on their own, how can we possibly hope to react when a dark chapter like this coincides with the emergence of a global pandemic?

One Texas family didn't have time to consider this question because they suddenly had to live it.

Anyone who knows 2-year-old Barron Shoemaker of Temple, Texas would consider him a very energetic boy.

Texas Children's Hospital | Wally Crow

As the Texas Medical Center reported, however, he spent months finding himself ill and short of breath.

As his mother Ashley said, “It was a shock. He was otherwise healthy, but I took him to the emergency room all the time for what they were calling asthma or acute respiratory distress. And I kept asking, ‘Is there something else going on?’"

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It turned out that she was right to wonder that because following an emergency in September that left Barron in respiratory arrest, Shoemaker would learn her son had an enlarged heart.

Reddit | muslim-shrek

As the child's cardiologist Dr. Hari Tunuguntla told the Texas Medical Center, this was caused by a viral infection known as myocarditis that inflamed the heart itself, thus weakening and enlarging it.

As she said, "Oftentimes, we’re never able to identify a cause, but in this case, we were able to identify a likely cause."

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Barron would have a six-month wait in the hospital before a new heart would be available and his existing heart wouldn't last that long on its own.

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And so his congenital heart surgeon Dr. Iki Adachi decided to implant a bridge device in the meantime. Specifically, a Berlin Heart like the one you see here that maintains a healthy blood flow from outside the body.

This meant Barron couldn't leave the hospital due to infection risk, but that didn't seem to make him any less energetic as he would often play with his basketball in the hallway and run around the nurse's stations.

As Dr. Adachi said, "He was fully active on the floor—the most active patient we’ve ever had."

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As the Shoemaker family waited for a replacement heart, however, news of the COVID-19 outbreak became more and more dire.

Texas Children's Hospital

For this reason, the hospital amended their visitor policy to allow one visitor per patient, so Shoemaker switched places with her husband Luke and returned to Temple to look after their daughter.

Soon after this switch took place, a donor heart became available and Barron would finally undergo his transplant.

As Shoemaker said, "I wasn’t able to be there for the surgery which was so hard. It was honestly the craziest timing. I almost didn’t believe it. It was so hard, but my husband kept me up to date every step of the way."

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Fortunately, the transplant was a success and Shoemaker could see Barron again about a week later.

Texas Medical Center | Ashley Shoemaker

By April 21, he would be discharged from the hospital with more than enough time to celebrate his second birthday 11 days later.

As Shoemaker said, "He has been just running around, playing with his sister, laughing, playing with his baseball and basketball. It’s been really good being home. He’s not real fond of taking the medicine, even less fond since we’ve been home, but we get it done."

h/t: Texas Medical Center

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