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Medical: A Transplant Journey

Medical: A Transplant Journey



Eric was born with a complex heart defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries. It was almost a 100% guaranteed death sentence for babies like him; the cyanotic, or so-called ‘blue babies’, born even just a few years prior to 1969.  Eric was a seemingly happy and healthy 7 lb baby boy, but his parents quickly discovered that even at 2 or 3 days old, his lips, fingers, toes, and even around his eyes, would turn blue..almost a purple plum-like hue when he would cry. And even though they had no idea what Transposition of the Great Arteries was at the time, they knew something wasn’t quite right.

The only thing that saved him (as well as the other ‘blue babies’) during those first few weeks and months was a hole in the heart, within the chamber walls, that allowed at least some oxygenated blood to mix and get sent out to the body. 

Around the time he was born, new surgical techniques were just beginning to be attempted and perfected throughout the world and remarkably, at a hospital near Eric, at The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. These techniques were still incredibly risky, but as the doctors told his parents, it’s the only hope he’s got. There was a 20% chance of survival to 3 years, and even that was optimistic. The reality was, he might not even make it off the operating table.

Eric’s parents and the doctors thought it was worth the risk, given the alternative of almost certain death. Over the next two years, surgeons would skillfully craft his heart, then the size of a strawberry, and the surrounding vessels (the size of a drinking straw) into somewhat of a makeshift, redesigned, modern marvel of medical advancement and surgical prowess.

The first of those pioneering open-heart surgeries were performed in 1970 when he was 6 months old, called the Blalock-Hanlon procedure. Subsequently, the Mustard procedure, performed in 1972, gave Eric, a real honest to goodness chance at a relatively normal life.  His tiny heart and body responded well, to say the least.  Now 51, Eric is one of the longest living survivors of these pioneering techniques.

Eric has absolutely enjoyed a relatively normal life.  It has, however, been a lifetime of doctor visits, of implanted cardiac pacemakers and ICDs, and of expensive surgical procedures, just to keep him going throughout those years.  And he has been limited in his physical activity, especially as he entered his 40’s.

In the fall of 2013, when he was 43, things really started to change. At his next scheduled heart checkup, the docs noticed his heart function had begun to markedly decline, and they wanted to start monitoring things a bit more closely. And rather suddenly, he was starting to have a lot of trouble making it through the day. After some more tests, he was told it was time for him to think about a heart transplant. That was February 12, 2014. 10:17 am.

A CausePage was created to directly support Eric and Tammy as they await the call for Eric’s new heart.  All funds raised will go directly towards the medical costs and financial support while Eric is on his transplant journey.  He was first on the list now, after over 900 days of waiting. Over Nine. Hundred. Days. He could really use prayers right now. And we know this is a really tough thing… because the beautiful gift of a new heart means another family out there is struggling with a new loss of their loved one – and they could use prayers too.

Custom donations and product purchases, alike, have been made in support of Eric.  Maybe we have a new tee that you just have to have, or maybe it's one of our other great CauseTeam products… I mean, if you need to shop for those things anyway, either for yourself or to gift to another, you might as well make a difference with your purchase, right? You can’t buy anything at CauseTeam without 40% of that purchase being donated to help someone else. You really CAN make a difference.