By Brooke Christopher, transplant recipient mom
October has always been our family’s favorite time of year with the crisp air, changing leaves and, of course, football. October of 2011 was extra special as I was due with our third child – a boy. Our two daughters were very excited to have a brother!
On October 28, 2011, our son Roman was born with no complications. I can remember hearing him cry and feeling a huge sense of relief. He was perfect other than a slight heart murmur that the doctors were monitoring. His first days were bliss.
However, on Roman’s third day of life everything changed. He suddenly stopped feeding, became very irritable and was very sweaty. The nurse heard him crying, came in and very calmly said she was going to take him to the nursery. It took me a few minutes to realize that something was wrong with my baby.
A doctor soon came to our room and told us that Roman was very sick – they were sending him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. My husband and I were taken to the NICU where we saw Roman hooked up to a ventilator. We kissed him goodbye and were quickly discharged to join him.
A team from the Cardiology department greeted us when we got to the hospital. They told us Roman was born with a serious heart defect known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome – the left side of his heart never developed – and he would need a series of three open heart surgeries to survive.
Roman was seven-days old when he had his first open heart surgery – unfortunately he was not strong enough to sustain the other two. His heart was getting weaker every day and he was running out of time. At this point transplantation was our only option to save Roman’s life.
On February 22, 2012, when he was only three months old, Roman was listed for a heart transplant.
During the wait my husband and I were never without our phones. Every phone call from an unknown number was answered with hope that it would be “the call.” Days, weeks and months passed.
And then, May 6, 2012, we got the call! I fell to the ground when I heard the voice of our transplant coordinator. He very calmly said, “Brooke, we have found Roman a perfect heart. He will be going into surgery at midnight!”
The next day, May 7, after a twelve-hour surgery, Roman had a fully functioning four chambered heart. All because one family said YES to organ donation.
Because of Roman’s donor we’ve watched him grow into a football loving, friendly, compassionate little guy. He’s celebrated almost four birthdays, started preschool, learned to ride a bike and do so many other things that would not have been possible, if it had not been for his donor.
Our family often thinks of Roman’s donor. Driving to the hospital the night of his transplant, the most beautiful rainbow was in the sky – we knew it was Roman’s donor was looking down on him. For that reason, we now refer to his donor as Roman’s Rainbow. Every time we see a rainbow we stop and take time to remember his donor family for the precious Gift of Life that was given to Roman. We will be forever grateful.