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Christmas Miracle 12.25.2010
 

Christmas Miracle 12.25.2010

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The journey of a young boy from Western North Carolina who received an organ transplant just in time for Christmas.

The journey of a young boy from Western North Carolina who received an organ transplant just in time for Christmas.

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    Christmas Miracle 12.25.2010 Christmas Miracle 12.25.2010 Document Transcript

    • Datestamp: 12/25/2010The gift of LIFEBuncombe teen enjoys first Christmas with new heart"My faith was just that strong. God brought him here for a reason. He wasnt done with him."Michael Bartlett, father of William.Buncombe teen enjoys first Christmas with new heartBy Sandra V. Rodriguezsrodriguez@citizen−times.comBLACK MOUNTAIN −William Bartlett doesnt want much for Christmas this year, just snow − lots of it.William wants to see the snow blanket the land, just like in the pictures his father, Michael, took last yearduring the Christmas weekend snowstorm."I just like that it changes everything," William said.Last year the wish of William and his family was more dramatic: a new heart for William, who lay in bedheavily sedated in a Charlotte hospital just before that December 2009 storm, his own heart failing.This year, the 16−year−old just cant get enough of the outdoors. Maybe it was being confined to the hospitalfor more than a month last year. This fall he spent hours upon hours practicing with a bow in preparation forhis first deer hunt, which he went on recently."If youre a teenager and you feel good, you want to go out," said his father, Michael Bartlett. "He is oftendoing something because he feels like doing something."William can do that now thanks to a 16−year−old boy somewhere who gave him the gift of life, in the form ofa new heart. The anonymous teen and his family potentially saved the lives of up to eight people throughorgan donation.The Bartletts got their wish just before Christmas last year: William got his heart transplant on Dec. 20. Thenthe family waited to see if it would take."He (William) went into sinus rhythm on Christmas day," said his mother, Tammy Bartlett, who had adifficult time holding back tears as she recounted the story. Sinus rhythm indicated that the transplanted heartwas working as it was intended.A boy in troubleThe gift of LIFE 1
    • Growing up, William displayed all the traits of any growing boy − with one mighty difference: A rarecongenital defect in his major arteries caused his heart to work overtime, all the time. That led the organ tobegin to fail as William approached his teens, explained Dr. Benjamin Peeler, a surgeon with CharlottesSanger Heart and Vascular Institute, part of Carolinas Health Care System.Williams failing heart led to a rapid decline in health.William was in critical condition when Peeler, who retrieved and delivered the donor heart, met him shortlybefore the transplant in December 2009."His heart basically completely failed," Peeler said. "He was essentially on the heart/lung machine to keephim alive before his transplant."William had been on the states transplant waiting list for five years, since 2004. There are typically fewerorgans for younger people than there are for adults because the size criteria for children are more specific.For the years that William waited for a donor, his family treated him like a normal little boy who enjoyedplaying baseball and football, which was modified to exclude contact. He liked to fish and hunt − activitiesthat Michael enjoyed sharing with his son.But little by little, things became harder for Will to accomplish."He (William) would spend about 30 minutes before he would say, Dad, I cant do this," Michael said.By 2009, a lot of little signs indicated Williams condition was rapidly deteriorating. During the summer,William was noticeably slowing down.On trips to the store, Michael and Tammy often had to stop and wait for William, who would struggle to catchup. Tammy kept trying to get him into a wheelchair, but William refused.He would lie in bed, suffering from the pain brought on by migraines related to his failing heart.One day when William was 15, in the early afternoon, Tammy received a call from her elder son, then16−year−old Chris, that sent her rushing to Owen High School. The message? "Mom, hes turned blue."Around Thanksgiving 2009, Tammy noticed that Williams toes were alarmingly swollen. Because his heartwas so weak, he was retaining fluids "real bad," enough for a trip to the emergency room. That same day,William was transferred into the care of doctors at Levine Childrens Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center inCharlotte."We knew there was something wrong," Tammy said. "He had asked us when we went down to get the heartcatheter, Were coming home, right? I said, Were supposed to. But we didnt."Instead, William was moved to the intensive care unit, where he would remain until the new year. Williamwas on a ventilator and heavily sedated for at least a week leading up to Christmas.Last ChristmasTammy spent most of the 2009 holiday season at Williams bedside, staring out the window at a Christmastree lot across the street. She saw the numbers dwindle as people bought their trees and drove off the lot, ontheir way to creating happy memories.The gift of LIFE 2
    • Her prayers were answered in the wee morning hours of Dec. 19: A potential donor heart had been found. Bythen, a heart and lung machine was the only thing keeping Will alive."When you all were getting the snow here − and he loves snow − his aunt said we were getting snow herebecause he was going to get his heart down there (in Charlotte)," Tammy said.Tammy and her mother−in−law kept the information from the rest of the family − including Michael andChris, at home in Black Mountain − until doctors confirmed it. The second call came about 8 a.m. Dec. 19. Itwas a match."I called him (Michael), and I told him, They have a heart," Tammy said.Michael and Chris had been commuting from Black Mountain to Charlotte on weekends while William was inthe hospital. The Dec. 18 snow wasnt enough to stop Michael when he got the news: Michael, his father andhis brother all got in the car to drive to Charlotte."My dad said, Son, we got 18 inches," Michael said. "I said, Im getting out of here even if I have to call theNational Guard. We had no problems. The roads still had about that much snow (indicating at least 4 incheswith his hands). But I was determined, I was going."The men made it in nearly three hours.After the transplant surgery, Williams doctors put him on an outside pacemaker, which helped the donatedheart to beat a normal rate until it began to beat normally on its own.During a checkup on Christmas Day, Peeler unplugged the pacemaker and then plugged it back in."He (Peeler) unplugged it again," Michael said. "And he said, Merry Christmas. Were on silent rhythm."Regaining strengthWilliam was one of the lucky few who got a second chance. About 18 people on the transplant waiting list dieevery day, according to the Mayo Clinic.There arent enough organ donors for the more than 110,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list,including more than 3,000 North Carolinians, according to The United Network for Organ Sharing.William went home in January. But it was just the first step in a monthslong recovery.In the spring, the Bartletts took a walk around Owen High Schools ball field during one of their first outingsafter Will was well enough to leave his home in Black Mountain. He took off running, leaving behind twovery emotional parents. It was a big milestone for the teen who at one point couldnt eat and breathe at thesame time."It was just amazing to see him walk and not get out of breath," Michael said. "He said, This is what it feelslike to be normal."It took a lot of work for the Owen High student to reach that milestone. He underwent physical therapy whilein Charlotte because he needed to build up his strength − enough to be able to do everyday things like hold upa spoon or walk.The gift of LIFE 3
    • Even in their darkest days, Tammy and Michael were sure that doctors would do everything they could tomake sure Will had a long and healthy life."My faith was just that strong," Michael said. "God brought him here for a reason. He wasnt done with him."But nothing is guaranteed. William still has to be careful because his immune system is not where it should be− the doctors have to keep it suppressed so his body does not reject the new heart.Diet and exercise are also very important. Will doesnt suffer from migraines anymore, and he can now eatpickles and cheese and peanut butter − his favorite snacks.His doctors gave him a clean bill of health during a recent checkup in Charlotte. William was gaining heightand weight, a sign of good health. At one point during his monthlong hospital stay, he weighed 70 pounds."I dont remember half of it," William said. "I dont even remember going down (to Charlotte). I remembergoing up to the high school, telling someone that we were leaving. But I dont even remember getting on theinterstate."Thats been a blessing for Tammy and Michael, who wish the memory lapse could extend to them. A year out,the couple cant talk about it without experiencing some of the anguish over again.William can only sit back and listen to his parents recall the long, difficult and scary journey that ended thanksto another familys priceless gift.The Bartletts have not met the family of the donor teen, and they wont unless the family requests it. ButTammy said their son will always live on in William."We wouldnt have (William) today if it wasnt for him."WTo make a contributionTammy and Michael Bartlett have set up at fund to help pay for Williams medical bills. Send donations to theWilliam Bartlett Heart Fund at P.O. Box 2865, Asheville, NC 28802.How to become a donorTo become a donor, request that a heart symbol be placed on your license at the Department of MotorVehicles or register with the Donate Life North Carolina donor registry at www.donate lifenc.org.The red heart on a license indicates legal consent for the donation of organs and corneas/eyes after the persondies. It does not include tissue donation.If you register online, you can choose which organs or tissues to donate as well as how the organs can beused.Organs that can be donated include the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys and small intestines. Tissues thatcan be donated include skin, bone, corneas, heart valves and veins.The gift of LIFE 4
    • One of the most important things people can do is make sure their family knows their wishes regardingdonation.Source: Donate Life North Carolina Margaret Hester/mhester@citizen−times.comWilliam Bartlett, 16, listens as his family tells the story of his heart transplant. William and his family received the gift of life last Christmas whenCaption: then 15−year−old William received a heart transplant. This year they plan to celebrate Christmas to the fullest.Publication: The Asheville Citizen−TimesSection: NewsSource: StaffEdition: MainPage: 1Book: AByline: Sandra V. RodriguezFrom: STAFFDay:SaturdayThe gift of LIFE 5